Bone Mineral Density and Breaking Strength of White Leghorns Housed in Conventional, Modified, and Commercially Available Colony Battery Cages
Limited opportunity for movement and load-bearing exercise for conventionally caged laying hens leads to bone loss and increased susceptibility to osteoporosis, bone fractures, and cage layer fatigue, all of which compromise hen welfare and have negative consequences for production. The objective of this study was to compare bone mineral density (BMD) and strength measures of White Leghorns housed in conventional battery cages (CONV), cages modified to incorporate a nest box and perch (MOD), and commercially available, furnished colony cages with (CWDB) or without (CWODB) a raised dust bath. Hens reared on floor litter were randomly allocated to 1 of 4 cage systems at 19 wk of age. Hen-day production and egg quality were measured between 20 and 64 wk. At 65 wk, hens were killed, and right femur, tibia, and humerus were excised. Bone mineral density was assessed using quantitative computed tomography, and breaking strength was measured with an Instron Materials Tester. In the femur and tibia, CONV hens exhibited lower total BMD, bone mass, cortical bone area, cortical bone mass, and bone-breaking strength than CWDB, CWODB, and MOD hens. Density and cross-sectional area of bone in the trabecular space was highest in CONV. In the humerus, total and cortical BMD and mass and breaking strength values were higher for colony housed birds than hens in CONV and MOD. The MOD birds did not exhibit increased humeral BMD or strength measures over CONV hens. These findings provide evidence that hens housed in modified and colony cages, furnished systems that promote load-bearing movement, are better able to preserve cortical structural bone than conventionally caged hens and simultaneously have stronger bones. Furthermore, inclusion of raised amenities that encourage wing loading is necessary to reduce humeral cortical bone loss. The overall absence of correlation between egg production or quality and bone quality measures also suggests that improved bone quality in CWDB, CWODB, and MOD furnished cages is not the result of lowered egg production or quality.
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11 August 2010
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