In this paper conventional cages are compared to furnished cages, non-cage systems, and outdoor systems. It appears that no single housing system is ideal from a hen welfare perspective. Although environmental complexity increases behavioral opportunities, it also introduces difficulties in terms of disease and pest control.

One specific circumstance has not been taken into consideration in this paper: how to depopulate the hens in case of an outbreak situation. Emergency control is not an economic parameter to choose a specific production system, but comparing a production system with or without cages, it is clear that it is much easier to depopulate chickens in a system without cages. Without a proper technique to cull the animals in a animal welfare friendly way and to transport the carcasses out of the house mechanically, the chickens are killed and transported manually.

This is not only increasing the risks for humans to get infected, it also influences the risks that animals suffer unnecessary during depopulation. Handling animals during outbreak situations is mostly done by inexperienced responders who have little to no knowledge about animal welfare. Veterinary authorities in charge of the response activities have issues like effectiveness and efficiency to consider.

How to depopulate the chickens in an outbreak situation is an important welfare indicator and the producer of these systems need to be kept responsible for the technical solution.

Harm Kiezebrink
Research Fellow Queensland University /

AVT Applied Veterinary Technologies Europe AB
Address details: c/o INTRED, Södra Hamnen 2,
45142 Uddevalla, Sweden

Phone: +44 7452 272 358