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Br Poult Sci. 2011 Dec;52(6):666-74. doi: 10.1080/00071668.2011.639342.

Effect of low light and high noise on behavioural activity, physiological indicators of stress and production in laying hens.

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1
Centre for Animal Welfare, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL7 9TA, UK. eoconnor@rvc.ac.uk

Abstract

1. Commercial laying hens are commonly housed in noisy and dim environments, yet relatively little is known about whether these conditions, particularly in combination, have any effect on welfare or egg production. 2. The study was designed to investigate whether chronic exposure to continuous noise (60 dB(A) vs. 80 dB(A)) and/or light intensity (150 lux vs. 5 lux) during the critical period of coming into lay (16-24 weeks of age) influenced behaviour (activity, resting and feather maintenance), physiological stress (plasma corticosterone and heterophil to lymphocyte ratio) and production (number and weight of eggs laid) in laying hens. 3. Hens in the low light pens were less active and preened and dust-bathed more than those housed in 150 lux; hens in the high noise pens rested more frequently than those in quieter pens. 4. There was no evidence that chronic exposure to low light or high noise caused appreciable physiological stress but egg production was affected by these conditions. Hens kept in pens with low light or high noise laid fewer eggs per day than those kept in high light or low noise pens. These effects were additive, so that the fewest eggs were laid by hens subject to both low light and high noise. 5. These results show that low light intensity and continual high background noise have a detrimental effect on egg production in the early laying phase as well as influencing the time allocated to different behaviours. However there was no strong evidence for a physiological stress response to either of these conditions or their combination.

PMID:
22221232
DOI:
10.1080/00071668.2011.639342
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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