Egg Industry - April 2018 - 22
22 ❙ EggIndustry
LAYING HEN NUTRITION
their need to peck and reducing time
available for negative bird interactions.
Beak tipping appears to be less
necessary in caged hens. Different
countries have different regulations
regarding beak tipping and are banned
in some. Therefore, other ways to
control injurious pecking in cage-free
housing are required.
Gut health and
Cage-free layers face
a greater challenge in
terms of gut health, as they are
more in contact with the manure.
Bacteria, protozoa and worms all
have more opportunity to infect
birds. Supporting gut health by
nutritional means is therefore
even more important, as are good
management and biosecurity.
Improvements in intestinal health
can help to help reduce the effect of
these disease challenges. As well as
suitable fiber provision, probiotics
and prebiotics have given good
results in free-range hens. Essential
oils and medium-chain fatty acids
are also used. These nutritional
strategies become even more
interesting as the market looks to
reduce the use of antibiotics.
When rearing hens for
cage-free systems, many
techniques are employed -
including training birds to move
between levels. But there are also
WITH CAGE-FREE PRODUCTION,
there is much greater variability.
many nutritional considerations.
Robustness and uniformity are
important for all pullets but
particularly so for those destined
for a cage-free system. Making sure
the diets are high enough in protein
to ensure good growth during the
rearing phase is essential. Calcium
is also important to ensure good
bone strength - especially in the
keel and legs - and can sustain the
increased mobility required in an
Due to increased exposure to
pathogens and potential disease
vectors, pullets destined for
free-range housing receive more
vaccinations. Some producers will
add electrolytes, vitamins and
minerals to the water at these times
to support their immune systems and
reduce stress. Again, ensuring target
weights are met will prevent setbacks
and mean that, when transferred to
the laying house, they are in the best
possible condition. As opposed to a
cage environment, the birds will need
to learn where the feed, water and
nest boxes are.
In many cases, the
breeds used in caged
and cage-free systems will be the
same - with differences down to
country or company preferences.
Brown egg layers are more popular
in Western European markets and
are often associated with free range.
While white egg layers are more
common in regions where hens
are caged, they can also be kept
successfully in cage-free systems.
Brown hens are bigger birds, with
greater maintenance requirements
and poorer feed conversion than
white birds. Several breed companies
are now offering breeds specifically
developed for free-range systems,
focusing on robustness and suitable
One of the main
caged and cage-free housing systems
for laying hens is the variability
in environmental conditions.
The extent to which external
temperatures are of influence
will depend on ventilation and
heating provision in the house.
Free-range birds also must contend
with changing weather conditions.
Colder temperatures increase the
bird's maintenance requirements for
energy, while high temperatures can
reduce feed intakes. Therefore, the
www.WATTAgNet.com ❙ April 2018