Good management requires thinking about things from the hen’s point of view and looking out for them properly.

Cage or floor:

there is a world of difference between the two.  With caged chickens, the birds have no choices and it’s mainly the farmer who calls the shots. In floor systems the hens can decide for themselves where to walk, lay their eggs or drops their faeces. As a poultry farmer you must bear this in mind and respond accordingly.

You can influence their behaviour with food, water, light and other factors. There are also great differences within cage and floor systems. In traditional cages the chicken can’t do very much, but in bigger systems containing more than 40-50 hens, you need to take the birds’ Behavior into account. In floor systems it makes a big difference whether the birds are free-range or the poultry house is fitted with a type of aviary system. In the latter case in particular, you will definitely need to take the birds’ behavior into account.

The hen prefers her living environment to be designed in such a way that there is a separate area for each activity: resting, laying eggs, scratching, eating and drinking, dust bathing. For resting, laying eggs and dust bathing she needs quiet places where she won’t be disturbed by other chickens coming and going. A healthy accommodation naturally also includes the right temperature and the right amount of light, air, food and water.

 Differences between husbandry systems:

There are various types of husbandry systems irrespective of the climatic conditions. In most countries hens are kept in small cages. In countries where these are banned, mini-aviaries or enriched cage systems may be a permitted alternative. In floor housing chickens have much more room to move and are more free to exercise their natural behavior. But in doing so they use more energy and therefore eat about 5 grams more feed a day. There is also a risk of egg loss because hens can lay their eggs outside the nest. Avoiding floor eggs requires a lot of attention and work, particularly in the early morning. In case of floor eggs start walking through the hen house at about the time they lay their eggs, disturbing the hens that try to lay their eggs outside the nests. The choice of housing systems depends not only on local cost levels but also on society’s demands in terms of animal welfare (laid down in law). And the choice must of course suit the poultry farmer and his staff.

Cage system 

+ Most efficient method of poultry-keeping

– Birds are limited in their natural behavior (animal welfare)

+ Less labour-intensive

+ Better hygiene (diseases spread more slowly)

+ Climate easier to control

Floor system

– When something goes wrong the consequences are more serious

– Higher management level necessary: behavior is an extra factor to take into account

+ Birds can display their natural behavior

+ Better image (meeting demands of society)

– More labour-intensive: a lot of extra work in the poultry house

+/– Ventilation systems work differently in floor systems (fewer chickens so less heat generated, susceptible to weather influences, reduced pressure ventilation not possible in free-range system)

Reference:© Roodbont Publishers B.V., 2013