Use of the range area in organic egg production systems: effect of climatic factors, flock size, age and artificial cover
1. To evaluate the effect of climate, flock size, age and artificial cover on the use of range area, a study was conducted in 1994 to 1998, involving 5 farms with a total of 37 flocks of layers kept in commercial, free-range, organic systems. Flocks were visited regularly during the production period to record the number and distribution of hens on the range.
2. On average 9% of the flock used the range area, but with large variations both within and between flocks, and this was partly influenced by climatic factors. Range use was affected by temperature, wind, precipitation, season and age, and there was a tendency for reduced numbers of hens on the range with the time of day and increasing flock size.
3. Eight flocks (including houses and range areas) were divided into 8 paired units, and the range area of one unit in each of the flocks was provided with artificial cover. There were more hens on the range when artificial cover was present and the presence of cover attracted more hens away from the area immediately outside the hen house.
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28 October 2010
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