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Laying Hen Performance, Food Safety, and Well-being in Cage-free Housing as Impacted by an Early Molt


The table egg supply was diminished with the depopulation of almost 40 million laying hens and pullets in 2015 due to avian influenza. Due to hen house or pullet house location, no alternative was available to the commercial producers if the birds were located in an infected zone. Pullet research has greatly diminished since the early 1990’s so suggested alternatives on how to delay the onset of lay or reduce the maturation time with today’s genetic strains is nonexistent. Therefore, the project is designed to provide an unbiased assessment of the impact of early production molt on hen performance and well-being of pullets. Rearing: Pullets will be grown to meet the recommended body weights provided by the specific breeder management guide. Feed intake, feed:gain, and nutrient intake will be monitored throughout the rearing phase. Production: The performance will be monitored concurrently during the rearing and laying phase per experimental protocol. Skeletal health: Throughout the induced molt and at the termination of the study, the skeletal health of the hens will be assessed via: Bone shape and volume imaging, Bone breaking strength, and Bone ash

Jones, Deana; Gast, Richard
USDA - Agricultural Research Service
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