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Production and behaviour of laying domestic fowls in outside pens [abstract]

By B. O. Hughes, P. Dun

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Abstract

Two groups of 38 hens, commercial medium and light hybrid strains, were housed in outside pens, 23 x 21 m, and compared over a 20-month laying period with controls in groups of 4 in battery cages. They received the same laying mash in a feeding trough kept inside their hut, and almost all eggs were laid in nest boxes also inside the hut. Supplementary light was provided when necessary before the natural dawn by a bulb inside the hut, so that the photoperiod was at least 14 h. The birds outside produced on average as many eggs as those inside and of a greater mean weight. They ate more food and in addition supplemented their diet with a variable amount of grass. Mortality was similar in the 2 systems, while feather condition was better in birds in pens and their body weight was greater. Access to the outside pens was provided between 0800-1700 h, and the number outside was dependent on weather conditions, the proportions were lower for the light hybrids. The numbers were not static, there being a relatively constant high rate of movement into and out of the hut. The number emerging within 5 min after the pop-hole was opened at 0800 h was very variable from day to day, but showed a very high correlation between the 2 flocks. The main activities observed outside were grazing, ground pecking, ground scratching and dust-bathing when weather conditions were appropriate. There was no evidence from production results or mortality data, that modern hybrids are specifically adapted to either intensive or extensive systems.

Date 1983
Publication Title Applied Animal Ethology
Volume 11
Issue 2
Pages 201
Language English
Author Address ARC Poultry Res. Cent., Roslin, Midlothian, UK.
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal housing
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Birds
  5. Chickens
  6. Egg production
  7. Extension
  8. Farms
  9. Fowls
  10. Free range husbandry
  11. Laying characters
  12. Laying performance
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Poultry
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  1. peer-reviewed