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Cage-free Layer Husbandry Best Practices

The switch to cage-free layer housing isn’t a new one, and definitely hasn’t been an easy one. We scoured the internet to compile a list of practices and recommendations to help you meet welfare standards and still maintain healthy, profitable flocks.

Feed

In cages, feed is wasted when birds overeat from boredom. In cage-free systems, birds have enough room to move about and keep themselves entertained, so feed is wasted primarily by cage-free aviary systeminsufficient feeder design.

Litter quality

It’s important to keep the litter dry to maintain low ammonia levels. In an aviary system, bird movement in higher tiers reduces manure accumulation in the litter since it is deposited on manure belts.

The ideal depth for litter is one inch – deep enough to dust bathe, shallow enough to dry quickly, and not deep enough for the hens to scratch it into a nest.

Nests

All certifiers for cage-free laying hens agree that birds should have access to either individual nest boxes (1 per 5 hens) or a colony nesting systems that allows a minimum or 9 square feet percage-free nesting 100 birds.

Perches

Perching is a high priority for hens. Subordinate hens use perches to escape aggressors, but it also helps to keep the hens from resting in the litter where they would be more susceptible to litter-borne bacteria or parasites.

Lighting

The standard duration of light needed per day to reach maximum production is 16 hours. Light intensity is required to be a minimum of 10 Lux throughout the house, but optimal lighting of 30 Lux – or three foot-candles – at the feed troughs leads to more efficient production.

 

Learn more about raising cage-free layers in our white paper, “The Modern Hen: A Look at Cage-free Housing”

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