Assessing environmental control strategies in cage-free egg production systems: effect on spatial occupancy and natural behaviors

  • Date de publication : 2021-05-14


Cage-free systems (CFS) have become a good option in laying-hen production considering animal well-being and international pro-animal marketing concerns. Theses CFS provide large free areas, nest boxes, perches, and litter space where hens could carry out their natural behavior in a production period. CFS at industrial scale can presents high concentration of particular matter and ammonia decreasing indoor air quality. Environmental control strategies (ECSs) have shown up as a solution to improve indoor air quality from layer housing systems. However, there exist few information about the impact in laying hen behavior within these techniques. Three strategies plus a control (traditional aviary system) were tested in an experimental CFS at IRDA laboratories in Canada. Twelve bench-scale rooms were designed to tracking environmental and behavioral variables using a data-logger and a video recording system. Twelve Lohmann LSL-Lite laying-hens at 19 weeks of age (WoA) were sheltered for 16 weeks in each room. Spatial occupancy (SO) and ten laying-hen behaviors (LHB) were observed and statistically analyzed. Results show that there is not a significant influence in hen’s behavior during the implementation of techniques such as heated floor and oil sprinkling (HFOS), litter absorbent and oil sprinkling (AOS), oil sprinkling (O) and decrease of litter surface (T17). However, it was observed an effect over the SO preference when T17 treatment was applied. This works present results supporting the implementation ECSs without getting an impact over natural behavior and welfare in livestock laying-hen systems.