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The Animal Welfare Science Centre Effects of a perch, dust bath and nest box in furnished cages on the welfare of laying hens John Barnett 1 co-authors:

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Presentation on theme: "The Animal Welfare Science Centre Effects of a perch, dust bath and nest box in furnished cages on the welfare of laying hens John Barnett 1 co-authors:"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Animal Welfare Science Centre Effects of a perch, dust bath and nest box in furnished cages on the welfare of laying hens John Barnett 1 co-authors: G. Cronin 1, R. Tauson 2, J. Downing 3, V. Janardhana 4, J. Lowenthal 4 and K. Butler 5 1 Animal Welfare Science Centre, 2 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 3 University of Sydney, 4 CSIRO Livestock Industries, 5 Victorian Department of Primary Industries

2 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 2  Community concern on conventional cages  Number of replacement options: –barn –aviary –free range –furnished cages  Provide items that are considered important for hens: –litter, nest box, perch  Are welfare assumptions of alternative systems being met? Background:

3 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 3 BarnAviary/Perchery Free RangeFurnished Cage Housing Options:

4 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 4 Background continued : EU and Australian recommendations (2002)  Conventional cages to be replaced with furnished cages in EU in 2012  PIMC (Australia) recommendations in March 2000  included R&D on furnished cages and review of Code of Practice for Welfare: Poultry

5 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 5 To assist answering the question: –Are welfare assumptions of alternative systems being met?  To determine the effects of the contribution of items of furniture (perch, dust bath and nest box) on the welfare of hens Objective:

6 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 6 Experiment:  Factorial experiment on furnished cages –3 (nest box) x 3 (dust bath) x 2 (perch) –Additional external control treatments - NO FURNITURE  SPACE ALLOWANCE (single vs. double 8 bird cages)  GROUP SIZE (8 vs. 16 hens in double cages) Nest box Dust bath single cage = 750 cm 2 /hen; double cage = 1500 cm 2 /hen Perch Victorsson cage (Sweden) single cage = 750 cm 2 /hen for 8 hens + nest box & dust bath

7 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 7 Dust-bath treatments: 3 Treatment Conditions for the Main Effect of Dust-bath

8 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 8 Measurements:  Video observations (furnished cages only)  activity, furniture use in light & dark, location & time of egg laying  Immunology  total & differential white cell counts, mitogen stimulation test, IL-6 production test  Stress physiology  plasma corticosterone, egg albumen corticosterone, corticosterone response to ACTH  Morphology  body weight, feather condition & cover, foot condition, claw length and condition, pecking injuries, keel bone deformation  Bone strength  at end of experiment only 2 sampling periods of 8 weeks each, from 29 and 59 weeks of age

9 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 9 Bone strength:

10 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 10 Results: - Furniture - Bone strength ab : P<0.05 At weeks of age No effect on femur Higher value = stronger bone

11 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 11 Results: - Furniture - Behaviour ab : P<0.05

12 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 12 Results: Furniture - Integument damage/cover The higher the score the higher the damage or the poorer the cleanliness. Differences were relatively minor. ab : P<0.05

13 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 13 Results: - Egg laying behaviour ab : P<0.05 Approximately 70 % of eggs laid in nest box, if present

14 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 14 Results: GS/SA - Corticosterone/Immunology † sampling period commencing at 59 weeks of age; ab P < 0.05; pq P < 0.01 * P= X ? X

15 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 15 Bone strength (N) at weeks of age: ab P< 0.05 * = significant effect of perch Higher value = stronger bone

16 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 16  With the exception of the positive effects of a perch on bone strength, any effects of items of furniture in furnished cages are relatively small.  While there were changes in behaviour, it is unclear whether they have any implications for welfare.  Some evidence of stress in 16 bird cages (ie. group size effect) –higher egg corticosterone concentrations –lower immunological responsiveness in in vitro tests –the lower ACTH response suggests effects may be acute rather than chronic  Within the range of space (750 and 1500 cm 2 /hen) and group size (8 and 16 hens) treatments, the effects of group size on welfare related criteria were potentially greater than the effects of space allowance: These effects were larger than those due to ‘furniture’. Conclusions:

17 The Animal Welfare Science Centre 17  Context re alternative housing systems: Criticism of a housing system leads to development of alternative systems with (initially) more focus on getting them ‘working’ and many untested assumptions on improving welfare –With alternative systems, we generally succeed in simply replacing one set of problems with another set of problems We then become proactive and undertake research to properly identify and attempt to solve the problems Unlikely to make significant progress in improving housing for animals until we have a better understanding of basic requirements of animals General thoughts:


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