Main research question/goal
To what extent is the most used non-cage system for laying hens (aviary housing) a realistic alternative for cage systems in terms of animal welfare and management? This research focuses on the 5 biggest risk factors of this housing system: bone fractures, mortality, feather pecking, dust and production results. The final goal is to make adjustments to the aviary housing so that aviary housing will become more animal friendly and more sustainable. Research approach
In comparative observations on at least 40 commercial laying hen farms with aviary housing, we look for relationships between the occurrence of the 5 selected problem areas (bone fractures, mortality, feather pecking, dust and production) and the general state of animal welfare. We also examine characteristics of housing, management and (genetic) breed. On several participating farms, we follow the time course of the abovementioned problems during the entire production round (placement of laying hens to slaughterhouse). In the henhouses at the Proefbedrijf Pluimveehouderij vzw (a research farm on production scale) in Geel, we focus on techniques/measures that are applicable and effective to reduce fine dust in laying hen housing with non-cage housing. At ILVO’s experimental animal units, we investigate the effect of two measures (tentatively related to rearing conditions and the surroundings during the production phase) on the incidence of bone fractures and deformity in hens housed in aviary systems. Relevance/Valorisation
This research does not solve all the problems of all non-cage systems, but rather offers a targeted response to the main problems of aviary systems. It results in empirical data for a number of promising remedial measures regarding the problems of dust and bone fractures. The results are formulated as suggestions for the poultry industry in the form of effective and applicable solutions. We expect a viable implementation because the research targets contemporary topics of international research and because the cooperation and contacts with the poultry industry are carefully developed. The research results are spread widely through publications, conferences, seminars, and websites.
FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de voedselketen en Leefmilieu
PDLT - Provinciale Dienst voor Land- en Tuinbouw