Impact of Science and Management on the Welfare of Egg Laying Strains of Hens
Discoveries in behavior and welfare science have improved the health and well-being of egg laying flocks of chickens. The objectives of this review are to highlight research findings in genetics, health, environment, molting, morphological alterations, euthanasia, handling during depopulation, transportation, and harvesting to improve poultry welfare and to provide examples of additional opportunities to continue this progress. Although selection for disease resistance has improved the welfare of birds, use of genetic marker technologies may eventually advance the selection of healthier birds with fewer metabolic disease and cannibalistic tendencies. Animal health and welfare have been improved through development of vaccines, establishment of stringent biosecurity measures, and training of animal caretakers. Industry is currently making adjustments in bird space allocations to allow for less crowded conditions. Continued research in molting shows promise to avoid feed withdrawal regimens for laying hens. Beak trimming by trained personnel improves livability, reduces cannibalism, and should be used when nonaggressive strains are unavailable and when light intensity cannot be controlled. Extension specialists and veterinarians provide information on proper procedures for euthanasia. New systems for euthanasia of spent hens are being implemented by egg producers. New opportunities exist for use of enrichments in production facilities to offer environmental complexity. Further research on how sound and odors affect birds could provide new avenues for improving production systems.
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24 August 2010
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