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Cage-free hens are free to move around the house, raising questions about how best to stock the house, how to utilize perches, avoid mortality and maintain a high level of food safety | Courtesy Salmet
on August 14, 2017

5 questions about cage-free hen health, welfare

Cage-free egg farming experts answer questions about mortality, stocking density, perching and food safety.

Because cage-free egg production is changing the egg industry and challenging farmers to elevate their bird management skills, Egg Industry magazine has asked experts to answer questions about mortality, perching and food safety.

Read the entire report about cage-free egg production challenges exclusively in the August issue of Egg Industry.

1. Is higher mortality a part of cage-free farming?

There is no consensus on whether farmers need to accept higher mortality as a given in cage-free conditions.

2. What effect does stocking density have on behavior?

The experts agree lower stocking density is needed to prevent stressful conditions inside the barn and promote flock health. Birds need sufficient space to express natural behaviors; overcrowded conditions lead to more aggression and unproductive behaviors.

3. What are the welfare and management benefits of perching?

The perch is an important, yet easily overlooked, element of the cage-free house. Perches, often built as bars extending from the housing system, are seen as an animal welfare benefit because they allow birds to grasp onto something with their feet and fulfill the animal’s natural need to perch.

4. Is there an ideal perch design?

A perch can vary in shape and material, but often it is a round metal tube. While perches are required by cage-free certification programs, there are concerns collisions with the devices harm birds’ bodies – particularly the foot pad and keel bone.

5. What’s the best way to maintain a high level of food safety?

Critics of cage-free housing say one of the biggest drawbacks compared with conventional egg farming is a lower level of food safety. The experts said the food safety challenge can be met through a combination of strong flock and house management, application of biosecurity principles, and vaccinating pullets against Salmonella.

Comprehensive resource for cage-free eggs available

A new collection of exclusive articles, blogs and infographics on Cage-free Eggs and Consumer Trust in the Poultry Industry, written by trusted WATT Global Media editors and industry experts, equips egg producers and marketers with information to help them make critical business decisions. 

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Read the full article.

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