Animal Welfare Research Needs for Pullets and Laying Hens

Following is a list of research priorities gaps identified during the layer Code development process. Click here to visit the Pullets and Laying Hens Code web page for the Scientific Committee report and to view the full Code.

List compiled: November 2016

Optimizing enriched cage design to better support natural behaviour

  • Size/utilization of scratch pad
  • Nest size and number of nests
  • Effect of elevated perches in enriched cages on bird behaviour and bone health
  • Relative effectiveness of different designs of perches or claw shortening devices in furnished cage designs on claw length

Optimal management practices to reduce disease, injury and mortality in non-cage housing

  • Focus on E.coli
  • Efficacy of vaccines (e.g., infectious bronchitis)
  • Matching genetic strains to housing systems
  • Ventilation design in relation to air borne dust particulate

Optimal rearing practices that best prepare birds for their production environment

  • Space Allowance
  • Perch Space for Pullets
  • Lighting strategies for pullets housed in non-cage housing (ocular and physiological development; use of space/exercise; injurious pecking in the layer barn)

Benchmarking on Welfare Indicators in non-cage and enriched cage systems

  • Keel fractures
  • Mortality
  • Feather Pecking
  • Foot health

Bone health

  • Effects of nutrition and exercise during rearing on bone health
  • Contributing factors in enriched cages on bone health (e.g., fractures)

Euthanasia/On-Farm Depopulation

  • Practical and humane methods for mass depopulation

Preparation for Transportation/End of Lay Depopulation

  • Maximum feed and water withdrawal times for end of lay hens
  • Improvement in fracture rates and welfare in changing from crate to dolly systems for end of lay hens

Following is a list of additional priority research needs that were identified by the Code Technical Panel during the 5-year review of the pullets and laying hens Code.

List compiled: December 2022

  • Perching
    • What constitutes an acceptable perch?
    • Perch requirements for pullets
    • Maximum number of tiers/levels in aviaries and distance to litter
    • Nesting: enclosure to provide privacy and shading and nest curtain length