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Welfare of layers housed in small furnished cages on Danish commercial farms: the condition of keel bone, feet, plumage and skin

Rørvang, M. V., Hinrichsen, L. K., Riber, A. B.
British poultry science 2019 v.60 no.1 pp. 1-7
animal welfare, bone fractures, cages, commercial farms, feet, flocks, keel bone, laying hens, plumage, skin (animal), Denmark
1. An on-farm assessment of keel bone, feet, plumage and skin damage was conducted in layers in small furnished cages to evaluate welfare implications. 2. Thirteen farms participated, all housing Lohmann LSL layers in systems allowing 8 or 10 hens per cage. 3. Each flock was visited at three different ages: 32, 62 and 77 weeks. During each visit, 100 hens were examined for keel bone fractures and deviations, plumage damage, body wounds, foot pad lesions, bumble feet, missing toes and toe wounds. 4. A deterioration with age of the condition of the plumage and keel bone was found (P < 0.001). At 77 weeks of age, 16% of the birds had poor plumage, and 43% of the birds had keel bone damage. In contrast, foot pad lesions were most prevalent at 32 weeks of age (13%), whereas the other foot injuries and body wounds remained at a relatively low level throughout the three ages examined. 5. Prevention of damage to the keel bone, plumage and foot pads should therefore be considered when aiming to improve welfare of laying hens housed in small furnished cages.