Performance of brown layers fed reduced dietary protein levels in two rearing systems

Eduardo de Faria Viana Wesley José de Souza Miliane Alves da Costa Emmanuel Arnhold Fabyola Barros de Carvalho Heloisa Helena de Carvalho Mello Marcos Barcellos Café José Henrique Stringhini About the authors

ABSTRACT

An experiment was conducted aiming to evaluate the effect of different levels of crude protein, based on the ideal protein concept and two rearing systems, on productive performance of brown laying hens. A total of 400 Hisex Brown laying hens between 30 and 45 weeks of age were distributed in a completely randomized design and a 2×4 factorial arrangement, with main effects including two rearing systems (cage and floor) and levels of crude protein (140, 150, 160, and 180 g kg−1), totalizing eight treatments. Five replicates with 10 birds each were used per experimental unit. The following parameters were evaluated: egg production, feed intake, body weight gain, feed conversion ratio, and quality traits such as dirty, cracked, or broken eggs. No interaction effect was observed between dietary protein levels and rearing systems for body weight gain, feed intake, egg production, egg weight, and feed conversion ratio. Feed intake and egg production were higher in the floor rearing system. Feed conversion ratio (kg/dz) was improved in birds reared in the cage system. The rate of cracked and broken eggs was higher in the cage system. The layers reared in the floor system produced a higher percentage of dirty eggs. The dietary protein level did not affect the evaluated parameters. Thus, we conclude that a floor rearing system is an option for layers, and the dietary protein level can be reduced up to 140 g kg−1 for Hisex Brown hens from 30 to 45 weeks of age.

egg; ideal protein level; litter; productivity; rearing system; welfare

1. Introduction

Increasing demands for animal welfare and sustainability of egg production have motivated researchers to implement changes in rearing systems, especially in allowing conditions for birds to express their natural behaviors (Blokhuis et al., 2000Blokhuis, H. J.; Ekkel, E. D.; Korte, S. M.; Hopster, H. and van Reenen, C. G. 2000. Farm animal welfare research in interaction with society. Veterinary Quarterly 22:217-222. https://doi.org/10.1080/01652176.2000.9695062
https://doi.org/10.1080/01652176.2000.96...
). The main advantages of a cage rearing system are easy removal of excreta, better parasite control, and productivity maximization with higher stocking densities. However, birds raised in open housing systems, such as floor and free-range, with or without access to free areas, are allowed to express their natural behaviors such as scratching, flapping wings, dust bathing, and nesting. Such alternative housing systems have been widely used since they are designed to allow hens to express more natural behavior and have freedom of movement (Yilmaz Dikmen et al., 2016Yilmaz Dikmen, B.; İpek, A.; Şahan, Ü.; Petek, M. and Sözcü, A. 2016. Egg production and welfare of laying hens kept in different housing systems (conventional, enriched cage, and free range). Poultry Science 95:1564-1572. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew082
https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew082...
). Thus, studies of these alternative rearing systems to compare laying performance in conventional cages and on the floor are of great importance. Given the constant genetic improvement of genetic lines, research on the nutritional demands of laying hens in different systems is needed.

In furnished cages and non-cage systems, hen nutrition may be influenced by the provision of litter (Lay Jr. et al., 2011Lay Jr., D. C.; Fulton, R. M.; Hester, P. Y.; Karcher, D. M.; Kjaer, J. B.; Mench, J. A.; Mullens, B. A.; Newberry, R. C.; Nicol, C. J.; O’Sullivan, N. P. and Porter, R. E. 2011. Hen welfare in different housing systems. Poultry Science 90:278-294. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2010-00962
https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2010-00962...
). Hetland and Svihus (2007)Hetland, H. and Svihus, B. 2007. Inclusion of dust bathing materials affects nutrient digestion and gut physiology of layers. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 16:22-26. https://doi.org/10.1093/japr/16.1.22
https://doi.org/10.1093/japr/16.1.22...
verified that birds with access to paper as litter had higher feed intake and poorer nutrient use than laying hens reared in cages. According to Yilmaz Dikmen et al. (2016)Yilmaz Dikmen, B.; İpek, A.; Şahan, Ü.; Petek, M. and Sözcü, A. 2016. Egg production and welfare of laying hens kept in different housing systems (conventional, enriched cage, and free range). Poultry Science 95:1564-1572. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew082
https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew082...
, laying hens kept in free-range system present higher egg production, feed intake, egg mass, and better feather score. Netto et al. (2018)Netto, D. A.; Lima, H. J. D.; Alves, J. R.; Morais, B. C.; Rosa, M. S. and Bittencourt, T. M. 2018. Production of laying hens in different rearing systems under hot weather. Acta Scientiarum. Animal Sciences 40:e37677. concluded that birds raised on the floor had better results for egg production and higher weights of egg, yolk, albumen, and shell compared with Hisex Brown hens raised in conventional cages.

The benefits of diets based on digestible amino acids, given an ideal protein concept, have been widely reported in studies with broilers. Torki et al. (2015)Torki, M.; Mohebbifar, A.; Ghasemi, H. A. and Zardast, A. 2015. Response of laying hens to feeding low-protein amino acid-supplemented diets under high ambient temperature: performance, egg quality, leukocyte profile, blood lipids, and excreta pH. International Journal of Biometeorology 59:575-584. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-014-0870-0
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-014-0870-...
observed that dietary protein reduction from 165 to 120 g kg1 and amino acid supplementation are enough to maintain the performance of Lohmann Selected (LSL-Lite) laying hens. According to Soares et al. (2019)Soares, L.; Sakomura, N. K.; Dorigam, J. C. P.; Liebert, F.; Sunder, A.; Nascimento, M. Q. and Leme, B. B. 2019. Optimal in-feed amino acid ratio for laying hens based on deletion method. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 103:170-181. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpn.13021
https://doi.org/10.1111/jpn.13021...
, ideal amino acid profiles depend on experimental conditions, genetic lines, environmental factors, and age of pullets or hens. However, the above studies were carried out under cage conditions. Therefore, testing protein reduction in laying hen diet is crucial to evaluate nitrogen use efficiency, environmental effects, and feed costs.

Given the above and considering that protein requirements of laying hens in a floor system need further study to understand bird performance and respective effects on egg quality, we hypothesized that protein demands in poultry nutrition may change when moving hens from a conventional cage to a floor system. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the performance of Hisex Brown layers, from 30 to 45 weeks of age, in two rearing systems and receiving isonutritive diets with four levels of crude protein (140, 150, 160, and 180 g kg1).

2. Material and Methods

This research project was approved by the Ethics Committee on Animal Use (case no. 312/11). The experiment was carried out in Urutaí, Goiás, Brazil (17°27'49" S latitude, 48°12'06" W longitude, 807 m altitude).

Four hundred Hisex Brown layers, from 30 to 45 weeks of age, were allotted in a completely randomized design and a 2×4 factorial arrangement, wherein the main effects included two rearing systems (cage and floor) and four levels of dietary crude protein (140, 150, 160, and 180 g kg1), with five replicates of ten birds each.

Floor rearing system consisted of 20 boxes with a 10-cm rice-hull litter. Each box was equipped with a pendular drinker, a linear tube feeder, and a nest. Box dimensions were 2.2 × 1.5 × 3 m (length × width × height). The nests were made of wood, had three holes (33 × 40 × 45 cm), and were suspended 10 cm above the litter layer. Stocking density in the floor system was one bird per 3.3 m2. Conventional cages measured 100 × 37 × 40 cm and had four 25-cm boxes each. Stocking density was one bird per 500 cm2, and lighting program was 16 h of light, as indicated in the HISEX Brown Management Guide (Globoaves, 2006Globoaves Agropecuária Ltda. 2006. Manual de manejo – Hisex Brown. GloboAves, Cascavel, PR.). Poultry house temperatures were measured using a maximum-minimum thermometer (Incoterm®). In the floor rearing system, maximum and minimum temperatures were respectively 29.9 and 22.5 ℃, while in the conventional cages they were 30.1 and 22.3 ℃.

Experimental diets were isonutritive and formulated on the ideal protein concept, according to Rostagno et al. (2011)Rostagno, H. S.; Albino, L. F. T.; Donzele, J. L.; Gomes, P. C.; Oliveira, R. F.; Lopes, D. C.; Ferreira, A. S.; Barreto, S. L. T and Euclides, R. F. 2011. Brazilian tables for poultry and swine: food composition and nutritional requirements. 3rd ed. UFV/DZO, Viçosa, MG, Brazil. (Table 1).

Table 1
Composition of experimental diets

Laying performance and egg quality were analyzed for laying hens from 30 to 45 weeks of age. Eggs were sampled four times a day (8.00, 10.00, 14.00, and 16.00 h). Eggs and nests were handled according to the recommendations of Albino et al. (2005)Albino, J. J.; Avila, V. S. and Sangói, V. 2005. Construção de ninhos para galinhas de postura criadas em sistemas de piso, coberto com cama. Embrapa Suínos e Aves, Concórdia..

The variables studied were: egg production (%, hen-house basis), egg weight, egg mass, feed intake, body weight gain, feed conversion ratio (kg/dozen eggs and kg/egg mass), and percentages of dirty, cracked, and broken eggs. An egg was considered dirty when excreta or dirt was detected covering at least 30% of its shell surface. Cracked eggs were those with cracks of any size on their eggshell but without breaking its internal membrane. Lastly, eggs showing rupture of the shell were considered broken.

Average egg mass was determined by weighing eggs individually on the last four days of each laying period, using a Gehaka® semi-analytical scale (model BK-4000, accuracy of 0.01 g). Dirty, cracked, and broken eggs were counted daily.

Feed intake (g/bird/day) was calculated by the difference between the amount of feed supplied and leftovers on the last four days of each production period (28 days). Weight gain (kg) was estimated by weighing each bird on the first day and the last day of the experiment. Feed conversion ratio was determined as a direct relationship between feed intake and dozens of eggs produced (kg/dz) and between feed intake and egg mass produced (kg/kg).

Data were subjected to analysis of variance, and means were compared by the Scott Knott test at α = 0.05 significance level. Statistical analyses were performed by the SAEG v. 9.1 software. The proposed mathematical model was as follows:

y ijk = μ + a i + b j + ( ab ) ij + e ijk ,

in which yijk = value observed in the rearing system i (i = 1, 2), level j (j = 1, 2, 3, 4), and repetition k (k = 1, 2, 3, …, 10); μ = overall mean of the experiment; ai = fixed effect of the system i (i = 1,2); bj = fixed effect of the level j (j = 1, 2, 3, 4); (ab)ij = fixed effect of the interaction between system i (i = 1, 2) and level j (j = 1, 2, 3, 4); and eijk = random error in the system i (i = 1, 2), level j (j = 1, 2, 3, 4), and repetition k (k = 1, 2, 3, …, 10).

3. Results

Dietary protein levels and rearing system showed no interaction for body weight gain, feed intake, egg production, egg weight, and feed conversion ratio (P>0.05) (Tables 2 and 3). Dietary protein levels did not interfere with feed intake and body weight gain (P>0.05); however, birds raised on the floor had higher feed intakes (P<0.05). Egg production was influenced by the rearing system, while dietary protein levels showed no effect on this parameter (P<0.05). Layers raised on the floor showed better egg production. Egg weight was affected neither by the increasing dietary protein levels nor by rearing system (P>0.05). Dietary crude protein levels did not affect feed conversion ratio (kg/dz and kg/kg). An effect (P<0.05) of rearing system was observed for feed conversion ratio per dozen eggs, in which hens raised in cages had better results (kg/dz), but this effect was not observed for feed conversion ratio per egg mass (kg/kg).

Table 2
Body weight gain, feed intake, egg production, and egg weight of laying hens
Table 3
Feed conversion ratio of laying hens

Statistical interaction between dietary crude protein levels and rearing systems was found for dirty eggs (P<0.05) (Table 4). Layers raised on the floor had higher percentages of dirty eggs (15.10%) compared with those raised in cages (5.67%). The percentage of dirty eggs was the same in the cage system, regardless of the dietary crude protein level (Table 5). Conversely, laying hens reared in the floor system and fed 140 g kg1 CP produced less dirty eggs (Table 5). No interaction effect (P>0.05) was observed between dietary protein levels and rearing systems for percentages of cracked and broken eggs. Such rates were higher in the cage system but were not affected by dietary protein levels.

Table 4
Percentage of dirty, cracked, and broken eggs of laying
Table 5
Effects of the interaction between rearing system and dietary crude protein level on percentage of dirty egg

4. Discussion

According to Leeson and Summers (2005)Leeson, S. and Summers, J. D. 2005. Commercial poultry nutrition. 3rd ed. Guelph, Ontario., laying hens can express their genetic potential at temperatures within the thermal comfort zone (19 to 27 ℃). Silva (2000)Silva, R. G. 2000. Introdução à bioclimatologia animal. Nobel, São Paulo. considered that the ideal temperature for egg production would be between 21 and 26 ℃, which is close to the conditions observed most of the time in our experiment. It is important to understand the effects of these systems under tropical conditions, as in Brazil, once these experimental results express the genetic potential of laying hens under such conditions.

The higher feed intake of layers raised in a floor system can justify the higher bird body weight gain. According to Netto et al. (2018)Netto, D. A.; Lima, H. J. D.; Alves, J. R.; Morais, B. C.; Rosa, M. S. and Bittencourt, T. M. 2018. Production of laying hens in different rearing systems under hot weather. Acta Scientiarum. Animal Sciences 40:e37677., laying hens raised in a floor system are free to perform their natural behaviors, increasing movement and, hence, higher energy expenditure, which improves feed conversion per dozen eggs.

The model fitted to the data of dietary protein level was not significant for body weight gain. This result is similar to that of Sá et al. (2007)Sá, L. M.; Gomes, P. C.; Albino, L. F. T.; Rostagno, H. S. and Nascif, C. C. C. 2007. Exigência nutricional de metionina + cistina digestível para galinhas poedeiras no período de 34 a 50 semanas de idade. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 36:1837-1845. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-35982007000800017
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-3598200700...
, who did not verify any effect of crude protein levels on body weight gain of brown layers from 34 to 50 weeks of age.

Layers raised in a floor system had higher egg production (80.47%) than those in cages (76.86%). This parameter is one of the most important and is affected by some factors. Poultry raised on the floor can express its natural behavior and be under animal welfare conditions, which can increase egg production. According to Yilmaz Dikmen et al. (2016)Yilmaz Dikmen, B.; İpek, A.; Şahan, Ü.; Petek, M. and Sözcü, A. 2016. Egg production and welfare of laying hens kept in different housing systems (conventional, enriched cage, and free range). Poultry Science 95:1564-1572. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew082
https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew082...
, in a free-range system, hens have better feather and bone traits and additional space for comfort and welfare. However, these authors also found that egg production was higher in the free-range system but statistically similar to that of the cage and enriched-cage systems.

Tactacan et al. (2009)Tactacan, G. B.; Guenter, W.; Lewis, N. J.; Rodriguez-Lecompte, J. C. and House, J. D. 2009. Performance and welfare of laying hens in conventional and enriched cages. Poultry Science 88:698-707. did not observe effects on egg production for white laying hens between 21 and 60 weeks of age when housed in conventional or enriched cages. On one hand, Küçükyılmaz et al. (2012)Küçükyılmaz, K.; Bozkurt, M.; Herken, E. N.; Çınar, M.; Çatlı, A. U.; Bintaş, E. and Çöven, F. 2012. Effects of rearing systems on performance, egg characteristics and immune response in two-layer hen genotype. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 25:559-568. https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.2011.11382
https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.2011.11382...
observed that white laying hens produced 2.87% fewer eggs in an organic system (shed with access to free areas) compared with those in conventional cages. On the other hand, brown layers produced 4.23% more eggs in an organic system than hens in cages. In our study, brown hens had better performance in a floor system, which may have been due to the rusticity and easy adaptation of this strain compared with the white chickens.

Valkonen et al. (2006)Valkonen, E.; Venalainen, E.; Rossow, L. and Valaja, J. 2006. Effects of dietary protein on egg production of laying hens housed in furnished or conventional cages. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A - Animal Science 56:33-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/09064700600608631
https://doi.org/10.1080/0906470060060863...
compared egg production of white and brown layers raised in conventional and enriched cages (access to nest, perch, dust box, and larger available area of 750 cm2/bird) and fed diets with reduced (14.7%) or high (190 g kg1) protein contents. The authors observed that from the 32nd week of age, birds housed in enriched cages produced fewer eggs than those housed in conventional cages but no effect was observed due to protein levels. Pérez-Bonilla et al. (2012)Pérez-Bonilla, A.; Jabbour, C.; Frikha, M.; Mirzaie, S.; Garcia, J. and Mateos, G. G. 2012. Effect of crude protein and fat content of diet on productive performance and egg quality traits of brown egg-laying hens with different initial body weight. Poultry Science 91:1400-1405. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2011-01917
https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2011-01917...
evaluated different levels of crude protein (165, 175, and 185 g kg1) and fat (1.8 and 3.6%) in diets on egg production and quality of brown layers between the 22nd and 50th week of age with different live weights (1,592 and 1,860 g), and observed no effect of crude protein levels on egg production. Likewise, Rama Rao et al. (2011)Rama Rao, S. V.; Ravindran, V.; Srilatha, T.; Panda, A. K. and Raju, M. V. L. N. 2011. Effect of dietary concentrations of energy, crude protein, lysine, and methionine on the performance of White Leghorn layers in the tropics. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 20:528-541. https://doi.org/10.3382/japr.2011-00355
https://doi.org/10.3382/japr.2011-00355...
assessed the performance of hens between 21 and 72 weeks of age fed diets with three crude protein levels (150, 165, and 180 g kg1) and also observed no effects of crude protein levels on egg production, feed intake, and egg weight.

The similar egg weight produced by hens probably occurred because the birds used in our study were the same age. According to Şekeroǧlu and Altuntaş (2009)Şekeroǧlu, A. and Altuntaş, E. 2009. Effects of egg weight on egg quality characteristics. Journal of the Science of Food Agriculture 89:379-383. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.3454
https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.3454...
, egg weight is influenced by several factors such as lineage, heredity, room temperature, bird age, live weight, diet, and sanity. Similarly, Roll et al. (2009)Roll, V. F. B.; Briz, R. C. and Levrino, G. A. M. 2009. Floor versus cage rearing: effects on production, egg quality and physical condition of laying hens housed in furnished cages. Ciência Rural 39:1527-1532. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-84782009000500034
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-8478200900...
evaluated the performance of brown layers in two rearing systems (floor and enriched cages) and did not detect any influence on egg weight. By contrast, while studying the welfare of commercial laying hens in different production systems and environmental conditions, Barbosa Filho (2006)Barbosa Filho, J. A. D.; Silva, M. A. N.; Silva, I. J. O. and Coelho, A. A. D. 2006. Egg quality in layers housed in different production systems and submitted to two environmental conditions. Brazilian Journal of Poultry Science 8:23-28. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-635X2006000100003
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-635X200600...
observed lower egg weights in the cage rearing system. These authors associated the aforementioned to higher stress levels and difficulty in losing heat when birds are housed in cages. That could also explain our results.

Unlike what we observed in this study, other authors have reported that dietary protein level affects egg weight. Silva et al. (2010)Silva, M. F. R.; Faria, D. E.; Rizzoli, P. W.; Santos, A. L.; Sakamoto, M. I. and Souza, H. R. B. 2010. Desempenho, qualidade dos ovos e balanço de nitrogênio de poedeiras comerciais alimentadas com rações contendo diferentes níveis de proteína bruta e lisina. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 39:1280-1285. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-35982010000600017
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-3598201000...
concluded that egg weight of commercial laying hens increased linearly with increasing protein levels (120, 140, 160, and 180 g kg1). Pavan et al. (2005)Pavan, A. C.; Móri, C.; Garcia, E. A.; Scherer, M. R. and Pizzolante, C. C. 2005. Níveis de proteína bruta e de aminoácidos sulfurados totais sobre o desempenho, a qualidade dos ovos e a excreção de nitrogênio de poedeiras de ovos marrons. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 34:568-574. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-35982005000200026
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-3598200500...
assessed the performance of brown layers fed different protein levels (140, 150, 160, and 170 g kg1) and observed lower egg weight for diets with 170 g kg1 of crude protein at 52 weeks of age. According to Silva et al. (2010)Silva, M. F. R.; Faria, D. E.; Rizzoli, P. W.; Santos, A. L.; Sakamoto, M. I. and Souza, H. R. B. 2010. Desempenho, qualidade dos ovos e balanço de nitrogênio de poedeiras comerciais alimentadas com rações contendo diferentes níveis de proteína bruta e lisina. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 39:1280-1285. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-35982010000600017
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-3598201000...
, higher protein levels in diets affect egg weight since laying hens are unable to reserve protein efficiently for maintenance, therefore, varying with daily intake.

The feed conversion ratio (kg/dz) varies with feed intake and egg production, being considered an index of efficiency. Layers raised in a floor system fed more and had more room to move and spend their energy, which might have contributed to the worst feed conversion observed. The same was not observed for feed conversion expressed as kg/egg mass. This outcome is similar to that observed by Valkonen et al. (2006)Valkonen, E.; Venalainen, E.; Rossow, L. and Valaja, J. 2006. Effects of dietary protein on egg production of laying hens housed in furnished or conventional cages. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A - Animal Science 56:33-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/09064700600608631
https://doi.org/10.1080/0906470060060863...
, who assessed the performance of white and brown laying hens raised in conventional or enriched cages (access to nest, perch, litter box, and 750 cm2available area/bird) and fed diets with reduced (147 g kg1) or high (190 g kg1) protein levels; yet, they did not observe any effect of rearing systems on feed conversion ratio.

Our findings show that it is possible to reduce dietary protein levels from 180 to 140 g kg1, maintaining levels of the main essential amino acids without affecting laying performance. Reduced protein levels in laying hen diets decrease nitrogen excretion (Roberts et al., 2007Roberts, S. A.; Xin, H.; Kerr, B. J.; Russell, J. R. and Bregendahl, K. 2007. Effects of dietary fiber and reduced crude protein on nitrogen balance and egg production in laying hens. Poultry Science 86:1716-1725. https://doi.org/10.1093/ps/86.8.1716
https://doi.org/10.1093/ps/86.8.1716...
) and improve environmental quality (Meluzzi et al., 2001Meluzzi, A.; Sirri, F.; Tallarico, N. and Franchini, A. 2001. Nitrogen retention and performance of brown laying hens on diets with different protein content and constant concentration of amino acids and energy. British Poultry Science 42:213-217. https://doi.org/10.1080/00071660120048474
https://doi.org/10.1080/0007166012004847...
), besides reducing heat increase and feed costs.

Layers raised on the floor had a higher percentage of dirty eggs (15.10%) compared with those raised in cages (5.67%). Throughout the experimental period, eggs were rarely found on litter, which denotes the preference of birds to lay eggs in the nests. Likewise, Alves et al. (2007)Alves, S. P.; Silva, I. J. O. and Piedade, S. M. S. 2007. Avaliação do bem-estar de aves poedeiras comerciais: efeitos do sistema de criação e do ambiente bioclimático sobre o desempenho das aves e a qualidade de ovos. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 36:1388-1394. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-35982007000600023
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-3598200700...
and Roll et al. (2009)Roll, V. F. B.; Briz, R. C. and Levrino, G. A. M. 2009. Floor versus cage rearing: effects on production, egg quality and physical condition of laying hens housed in furnished cages. Ciência Rural 39:1527-1532. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-84782009000500034
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-8478200900...
also verified a higher occurrence of dirty eggs for layers in a floor rearing system. Nonetheless, these results are contrary to the observations of Barbosa Filho et al. (2006)Barbosa Filho, J. A. D.; Silva, M. A. N.; Silva, I. J. O. and Coelho, A. A. D. 2006. Egg quality in layers housed in different production systems and submitted to two environmental conditions. Brazilian Journal of Poultry Science 8:23-28. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-635X2006000100003
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-635X200600...
, in which the number of dirty eggs tends to decrease when the space allowance per bird was satisfactory. Becker et al. (2011)Becker, J. A.; Jácome, I. M. D. T.; Pies, M.; Rizzotto, D. W.; Almeida, A. Z. and Borille, R. 2011. Desempenho de poedeiras comerciais alojadas em gaiolas enriquecidas. In: XXII Congresso Latino-Americano de Avicultura, Buenos Aires. highlighted that a higher rate of dirty eggs is related to the rearing environment. Birds raised in litter systems have a large area for locomotion and nesting, which may favor direct contact of eggs with excreta.

Dirty eggs may represent losses and egg contamination. Hannah et al. (2011)Hannah, J. F.; Wilson, J. L.; Cox, N. A.; Cason, J. A.; Bourassa, D. V.; Musgrove, M. T.; Richardson, L. J.; Rigsby, L. L. and Buhr, R. J. 2011. Comparison of shell bacteria from unwashed and washed table eggs harvested from caged laying hens and cage-free floor-housed laying hens. Poultry Science 90:1586-1593. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2010-01115
https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2010-01115...
studied bacterial contamination of washed and non-washed eggshells from birds raised in conventional cages and on the floor; they observed that contamination level was similar in both systems, after washing with a commercial solution. However, compared with eggs produced on the floor, eggs from cages with excreta removal were less contaminated, regardless of washing.

If egg laying is performed in nests, the number of dirty eggs may be reduced. Zupan et al. (2008)Zupan, M.; Kruschwitz, A.; Buchwalder, T.; Huber-Eicher, B. and Stuhec, I. 2008. Comparison of the prelaying behavior of nest layers and litter layers. Poultry Science 87:399-404. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2006-00340
https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2006-00340...
studied laying hen preferences for nesting in individual boxes and verified that 17 out of the 24 birds preferred nests, and the other seven the floor (wood shavings). According to the authors, birds that laid eggs on the floor remained scratching and turning the substrate shortly before egg laying, while the others sought the nests. The authors also suggested that commercial laying hens have at least two behavioral patterns in terms of egg-laying site preferences, even for groups of the same age and genetic pattern.

Cracked and broken egg rates were higher in the cage system, which may be due to notches and slopes on the bottom of most cages (Barbosa Filho et al., 2006Barbosa Filho, J. A. D.; Silva, M. A. N.; Silva, I. J. O. and Coelho, A. A. D. 2006. Egg quality in layers housed in different production systems and submitted to two environmental conditions. Brazilian Journal of Poultry Science 8:23-28. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-635X2006000100003
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1516-635X200600...
). These bottlenecks also represent losses and should be avoided.

5. Conclusions

A floor rearing system is an option for Hisex brown laying hens in the production phase. Performance of layers is not affected by reductions in dietary protein level from 180 to 140 g kg1.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by Instituto Federal Goiano/Campus Urutaí, Olvego Óleos Vegetais Ltda, MCassab, and Ajinomoto®.

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    21 Aug 2020
  • Date of issue
    2020

History

  • Received
    30 Mar 2020
  • Accepted
    20 May 2020
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