2023 journal article
The Effect of Housing Environment on Commercial Brown Egg Layer Production, USDA Grade and USDA Size Distribution
Consumer demand for retail cage-free eggs is driving the layer industry towards greater use of extensive housing environments. However, there is limited research on how these environments affect egg production characteristics of brown egg layers, as was the focus of this study. Five housing environments were evaluated under typical industry conditions, including conventional cages, enrichable colony cages, enriched colony cages, cage-free and free-range. Three different brown egg laying strains were housed in the different housing environments and managed according to standard husbandry practices and stocking densities. Data collection for the strains began at 17 weeks of age, with a base period of 28 days for feed weigh backs and egg quality assessments. Housing environment had a highly significant (p < 0.0001) effect on all egg production characteristics measured, including egg production rates (% hen-day and % hen-housed), feed consumption (g/bird/day), feed conversion (egg g/feed g), and mortality rate (%) as well as percent grade A, B, and loss. Previous research revealed better egg production metrics for white egg layers in caged environments than extensive environments. In contrast, we observed brown egg layers had optimum production results for the free-range housing environments, and the poorest performance in enrichable colony cages.