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Impact of feeder space on laying hen feeding behavior and production performance in enriched colony housing

  • J. L. Oliveira (a1), H. Xin (a1) and H. Wu (a2)
Abstract

Current feeder space recommendations in laying hen welfare guidelines are inconsistent among and within countries. One determining criterion forming the recommendations (e.g. 12.0 cm/hen for the EU guideline) is that all birds can feed simultaneously. However, if there are other resources in the environment, as in enriched colony housing (ECH), it is unknown whether group-housed hens will choose to feed simultaneously. This study assesses the impact of feeder space on feeding behavior of 60 laying hens (W-36) in ECH using a ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification-based tracking system. The feeder spaces investigated were 12.0, 9.5, 8.5 and 6.5 cm/hen, achieved by blocking portions of the overall feeder access to keep hens at the same stocking density. Each feeder space treatment, randomly assigned over the course of the experiment, lasted for 7 consecutive days. Feeding behaviors were characterized as daily time spent at the feeder (TS, min/hen-day), daily frequency of visits to the feeder (FV, #/hen-day), and maximum or average percentage of hens feeding simultaneously (MPB, APB, %). Group-average daily feed intake (FI, g/hen-day), water use (WU, g/hen-day), and hen-day egg production (HDEP, %) were also measured. The results revealed that at 12.0 cm/hen, where unoccupied feeder space was present, a maximum of 59.0±1.4% (average of 31.7±0.3%) hens fed simultaneously. No significant differences were detected among 12.0, 9.5 and 8.5 cm/hen in TS (293±10, 286±10 and 281±10 min/hen-day) and MPB (59.0±1.4, 57.3±1.4 and 53.3±1.4%) (P>0.05). The outcome of no significant differences also held true between 12.0 and 9.5 cm/hen in APB (31.7±0.3 v. 30.8±0.3%) and between 9.5 and 8.5 cm/hen in all response variables measured (P>0.05). However, there were significant differences in APB between 6.5 cm/hen and all other treatments; in TS and FV between 6.5 and 9.5 cm/hen; and in MPB between 6.5 and 12 cm/hen (P<0.05). Considerable inter-hen variability was observed in TS (CV varying from 28.0% to 32.1%) and FV (CV varying from 26.5% to 27.8%). All the feeder spaces tested showed no significant impact on FI, WU or HDEP (P>0.05). The results revealed that synchronous feeding of hens in the ECH did not increase with increasing feeder space. However, it is worth noting that lower feeder space may lead to aggression or frustration which was not quantified in the current study.

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Corresponding author
E-mail: hxin@iastate.edu
References
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animal
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