Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Access to litter for 1-day old chicks and laying hens

In a trial with 4 × 500 growing pullets of Bovans brown hybrid, the effect of access to litter material (wood shavings) from day 1 on (E1) in comparison to offering litter from day 10 on (E10) was compared up to week of age 16. Pullets were kept in an aviary system of Harmony 3A-type. Of each pen, 375 randomly chosen pullets were moved into the layer house in week of age 18, where a Voletage-aviary system with a total of four units had been installed. During the growing period, lower animal weights (E1: 1’392 g, E10: 1’452 g), better weight uniformity (E1: 73,0 %, E10: 69,5 %) and decreased feed consumption (- 3,9 %) were determined for the E1-pullets. The largest differences were seen in mortality rate in the E1-groups (E1: 11,2 %, E10: 1,6 %). They were mainly due to losses by getting crushed to death during dimming the light in the evening in weeks of age 6 and 7. During the laying phase (weeks of age 21 to 80, including a moulting period beginning in week 50), differences in laying performance, feed consumption, egg weight and egg classes were neglectable. Furthermore, lower mortality rates (E1: 3,2 %, E10: 6,5 %) due to less cannibalism losses as well as a slightly improved plumage condition resulted in the E1-groups. It was concluded, that access to litter material should be offered to chicks from day 1 on although high losses during the growing period may occur.

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