Top cage-free layer hen management tips

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Cage-free hen close-up

Cage-free husbandry is challenging even for egg industry veterans. | Austin Alonzo

Cage-free egg farming will challenge the skills of farmers for years to come, as the rapidly emerging housing style demands far different management practices.

Read the entire report about cage-free layer hen management exclusively in the November issue of Egg Industry.

At the Egg Industry Center’s Egg Industry Issues Forum, a panel of equipment manufacturer professionals with expertise on cage-free housing and management offered quick tips on managing a cage-free house. The panel, part of the April 19 and 20 event held in Columbus, Ohio, featured Dr. Anna Concollato of FACCO’s Poultry Science and Technology Department; Bill Snow, aviary systems specialist for USA and Canada at Big Dutchman; Maikel Veron, vice president of North American sales for Vencomatic; Derrick Ament, regional sales manager for Val-Co; and William Huelsewiesche, director of operations for Farmer Automatic of America.

Moving to cage-free from conventional egg farming requires a total change in mindset, Huelsewiesche said, and forces the farmer to pay more attention to every single detail in the process. One of the largest changes comes in access to feed and water.

Cage-free hens must have access to feed and water and be trained to find and use the feeder and the drinker. Huelsewiesche said the freedom of movement creates new challenges for the farmer. Feed chains must be run in order to attract the bird to the trough, and the level of feed in the device must be high enough that the chain is not exposed. Low feed levels can cause mechanical problems and hens can also latch on and ride the chains, causing obstructions.

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Austin Alonzo is editor of WATT PoultryUSA. To contact Alonzo, email

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