Can non-beak treated hens be kept in commercial furnished cages? Exploring the effects of strain and extra environmental enrichment on behaviour, feather cover and mortality
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Commercial laying hens are prone to injurious pecking (IP), a common multifactorial problem. A 2 2 2 factorial design assessed the effects of breed (Lohmann Brown Classic (L) or Hyline Brown (H)), beak treatment (infra-red treated (T) or not (NT)), and environment (extra enrichment (EE) or no extra enrichment (NE)) on mortality, behaviour, feather cover, and beak shape. Hens were allocated to treatments at 16 weeks of age and data were collected every four weeks from age 19 to 71 weeks. Data were analysed in Genstat using mixed models. L hens had higher all and IP-related mortality than H hens (p < 0.003), whilst NT hens had higher mortality than T hens but only due to culling of whole cages (p < 0.001). Feather cover for L hens deteriorated more quickly with age at most body sites than H hens (age breed body site p < 0.001). For NT hens, feather cover was worse at most body sites (beak treatment body site p < 0.001), and worsened more quickly with age (age beak treatment p = 0.014) than T hens. L and NE hens performed more bird-to-bird pecking than H and EE hens, respectively (breed p = 0.015, enrichment p = 0.032). More damage to mats and ropes was caused by L and NT hens than by H and T hens, respectively (age breed p < 0.005, beak treatment p < 0.001). Though H hens had fewer mortalities and better feather cover, breed effects may have been influenced by farm management practices, as they may have been better suited to H than L hens. Though EE hens performed less bird-to-bird pecking, the enrichments were less effective at reducing feather cover damage and mortality than expected.
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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution (CC-BY) licensehttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
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