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Poult Sci. 2012 Jul;91(7):1522-35. doi: 10.3382/ps.2011-01969.

The effect of cage and house design on egg production and egg weight of White Leghorn hens: an epidemiological study.

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Department of Comparative Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Hen performance can be affected by many interacting variables related to cage design, such as floor area, height, tier arrangement, and feeder and drinker type and placement within the cage. Likewise, features of house design such as waste management and lighting can also affect hen productivity. The influence of these design aspects on hen performance has not been fully assessed. Determining the effects of numerous, interacting variables is impractical in a traditional experiment; therefore, an epidemiological approach, using variability in cage and house design among and within commercial producers, was employed to identify features that affect egg production and egg weight. A universal cage measurement system was created to calculate cage design variables. A database for recording information on cage design, resource location, waste management, environmental conditions, and hen productivity was developed. Production outcomes were assessed from placement to 60 wk of age in White Leghorns (n = 165-168 houses). Using GLM, a statistical model was identified that best described the variance in egg traits. Eggs/hen-housed increased with greater feeder space allocation (P = 0.031); taller cages (P = 0.029); rear (vs. front) drinker location in vertical cages (P = 0.026); and regular removal of manure from the house (P = 0.005). Case weight of eggs was greater in A-frame houses where manure was removed regularly instead of being left in the house (P < 0.001); with increasing cage floor slope (P = 0.001); in cages where drinkers were placed more toward the front or back of the cage as compared with the middle of the cage (P < 0.001); with more space/hen (P = 0.024); and with higher caloric intake (P < 0.001). Perhaps because of its negative correlation with egg production, case weight of eggs increased with less feeder space allocation (P = 0.004) and shorter cage heights (P < 0.001). These results reveal important effects of feeder space, floor space, cage height, drinker position, and waste management on hen productivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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