Remedies for a high incidence of broken eggs in furnished cages: effectiveness of increasing nest attractiveness and lowering perch height

Poult Sci. 2013 Jan;92(1):19-25. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02192.


Two remedial treatments to reduce the high incidence of broken eggs in the furnished cages of our experimental layer farm were investigated: lining the nest floor with artificial turf (to increase nest acceptance) and lowering perch height (to reduce the chance of egg breakage of outside-nest eggs). A 2 × 2 factorial design was used with low (7 cm) or high (24 cm) perches, and with nest floors lined with artificial turf or plastic mesh. Eight cages, each housing 8 hens initially (aged 40 to 56 wk), were used per treatment. Egg location and percentage of broken eggs were recorded. Hen position (cage floor, nest, or perch) was recorded by direct scan-sampling observations. In addition, 8 cages (4 high + 4 low) each containing 8 hens (aged 54 to 56 wk) were videorecorded to determine perch use and behavior during the light period. Data were mainly analyzed using logistic regression and mixed models with cage as the experimental unit. Nest floor material did not influence the percentage of eggs broken or laid outside the nest. The proportion of outside-nest eggs (2.6 vs. 10.6%, P = 0.004), and consequently also of total eggs (2 vs. 4.6%, P = 0.016) broken, was lower for low than high cages. Perch use increased during the observation period, more so for the high cages during the light period and the low cages during the dark period. Perch bout duration (P < 0.001), the likelihood of ending a perching bout voluntarily (P = 0.013), and time spent sitting during perching (P = 0.007) were lower in low vs. high cages. In this study, replacing plastic mesh nest floor lining with artificial turf was not an effective remedy for the already-high rate of broken eggs, but the prevalence of broken outside-nest eggs was lower in cages with low versus high perches. However, perching behavior during the light period was more disturbed in cages with low perches.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Chickens*
  • Eggs / standards*
  • Female
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Oviposition