Limb bone strength and movement in laying hens from different housing systems.


Walking and bouts of wing movement performed by 61-week-old ISA brown laying hens which had been taken from one batch of eggs and then kept in three different housing systems which allowed a gradation in spatial freedom, were recorded. After slaughter the breaking strengths of the humerus and tibia of birds from each system were measured. Birds from battery cages exhibited the fewest limb movements and had the weakest bones, their humeri having only 54 per cent of the strength of those of birds from a perchery. Birds from the Elson terrace system were heavier and had a stronger tibia than cage birds. Compared with perchery birds, terrace birds had weaker humeri and also performed fewer wing movements. The results indicate that the amount of movement possible for laying hens in battery cages was insufficient to avoid levels of osteopenia and consequent bone fragility much greater than in birds kept in the perchery and Elson terrace systems.