Changing breeding systems: Having a healthy bird for healthy systems

Laying hen breeding systems have changed dramatically in recent decades. In Europe, Oceania, and North America, there has been a growing spread of laying hens in cage-free breeding systems, but pioneers remain Unexpected are from Latin America and Southeast Asia.

When viewed from a global perspective, warehousing cages are still the main system used in laying hens, and those nests and open breeding systems are still considered part of the wall niche. .

Keeping laying hens in cageless systems requires different management skills in addition to their different needs.

As a breeding company, Hendrix Genetics is working on the development of both. In close collaboration with poultry equipment manufacturers, egg producers, poultry behavior researchers and research institutes, as well as in-farm research, we better understand the needs of chickens and egg producers. Manufacturing features are still important, but behavioral features for cageless systems were considered ancillary needs.

Breeding programs have been upgraded to meet these needs, and breeding goals have become more balanced today. Animal welfare traits are being addressed and new features are still being identified.

In general, cage-free breeding systems give a laying hen (healthy and good survival power), tame (easily removable), social (relative to its peers) and cost-effective (return on investment). Egg producer) needs.

Laying hens

In open breeding systems (pens, poultry, open yard) laying hens are in contact with their feces as much as they are in direct contact with the litter or soil. Laying hens have been found to be more susceptible to disease in cage-free rearing. Equally, parasitic and bacterial infections are more prevalent in farm systems without cages, resulting in higher mortality compared to the cage system.

On the other hand, implementing a rigorous and well-designed biosecurity plan is important in choosing the right breed, so that a bird that grows well during the breeding period can cope with the stress of vaccination and a well-developed gizzard. The finding leads to adequate feed intake at the time of spawning.

These laying hens tend to cope better with external stressors without reducing their performance, which is a response to protecting themselves, for example they have some reserves.

Rum laying hens

Since changing the breeding system from cage to without cage requires different management skills, it is very important for most egg producers to have tame chicken breeds, for example laying hens that can be easily moved and They are easily manageable.

It is very important for laying hens to learn how to navigate and find their way in mixed breeding systems such as poultry, for example they should be able to find nests and locate feeders and feeders at night. When they go to the nests. Finding the nests is especially necessary to reduce the number of hospitalized and out-of-nest eggs as much as possible. They have a lower commercial value (dirty eggs are returned because they cannot be classified as AA, A or B grade eggs).

Early in the morning, when the lights are on and most of the hens have to lay eggs, those already in the system can easily find their way to the nests.

Therefore, it is very difficult to train birds that jumped out of the system at night during the breeding period and gathered on pallets to move upwards in the production halls.

Social laying hens:

One of the main challenges in the cageless egg industry is the behavior of birds. In conventional cage breeding systems, group sizes are generally small. However, they can easily grow up to thousands of laying hens in each cage without cages.

Adverse behaviors such as plucking feathers and cannibalism can also have far-reaching effects on cageless breeding systems, leading to death on a larger scale. Loss of feathers can negatively affect the feeding efficiency of laying hens, so they tend to increase feed intake to compensate for more heat loss.

As a breeding company, we select traits that counteract these undesirable behaviors in laying hens. As a result, general survival power is improved not only in herds kept in cageless breeding systems, but also in herds. Cages kept in breeding systems are also improved.

Breeding programs focus on features such as nervousness and convulsive behavior that are undesirable in both cage and non-cage breeding systems.

It has been found that investing in a stress-free breeding period (having birds with normal behaviors) is beneficial to the birds’ behavior during production. It is very difficult not to be very social with each other. Scientific research is constantly investigating why certain negative behaviors, such as suffocation and gathering, occur. There are obvious differences in these behaviors between white and brown races, especially whites. The seasons of the year also seem to be influential with a high prevalence in autumn and early winter.

Affordable laying hens

For many years, the performance of laying hens in open and organic systems was lagging behind laying hens of poultry and cage systems due to the number of eggs per nest hen, survival power and feed conversion ratio. But as time went on and we gained more experience and knowledge, especially about cage-free management, we clearly saw that the gap in production performance was narrowing. There are clear new examples of organic and open egg producers who are able to reach the full genetic potential of their flocks. Obtain 500 eggs or more per chicken at 100 weeks of age. What is their secret?

In addition to choosing the right breed, great care must be taken with the birds themselves, the first of which is the breeding conditions of the chicks. Laying hens outside the cage have higher appetites and therefore lower optimal conversion rates, so they have higher energy needs due to their higher activity level. In markets where there is a good balance between supply and demand, the higher cost of egg production is offset by the higher price of eggs that producers receive for out-of-cage eggs.


Different breeding systems require different guidelines and requirements, depending on the traits considered and selected by poultry breeding companies. But the rest must be trained by pullet breeders and egg producers. Investing in breeding is essential to improving a good quality purse that can play a good role in a cage-free breeding system.

During breeding it is essential to teach birds how to navigate and use more sophisticated breeding systems and how to react to specific events. Breeding should be seen as an investment rather than a cost. Excess investment in the breeding season will return during the production period, as these herds tend to produce more and show lower mortality rates.

Strong-laying laying hens that show positive social behaviors generally have higher survival. Optimal feather coverage will directly lead to lower conversion rates and higher values ​​for spent chickens in some custom live chicken markets.

Translation and research:
Engineer Mehrdad Sadeghi Scientific Department of Arian Roshd Afaza Company (ARA)

Reference: International Poultry Production, Volume 29 Number 1 (2021), Pages 13-15