Evolution of cages and facilities for laying hens
From the time of the Romans, a greater amount of information was generated about the breeding of birds; being hens and geese the main birds raised by the Romans in small farms.
According to archeozoological research, early Neolithic man already took advantage of the birds that lived with him in the wild in some way. They extract the eggs from the nests without killing the bird. Neolithic man did not raise, care for or feed the birds, he simply used them.
The domestication of the hen had its origins in India, and this technique was extended to the west, finding traces that the ancient Persians and Assyrians already practiced productive poultry. On the other hand, the ancient Egyptians took charge of the domestication of water birds and did not know the hen until several centuries later. However, they made a great contribution to poultry farming as they were responsible for discovering the artificial incubation of eggs and their application in an industrial way.
Evolution in the Roman era
From the time of the Romans, a greater amount of information was generated about the breeding of birds; being hens and geese the main birds raised by the Romans in small farms. Chicken meat was highly appreciated by that culture, something we can check in the stories about the patrician meals, where there was no lack of chicken meat, goose and eggs.
Rome achieved a great technological advance in poultry farming in order to meet the demands of its society. Caton, prepared a law on rural development where he talks about the raising of chickens and geese, having more detail in their diet. But without a doubt, it was Lucius Columela who was most interested in this area, when he dedicated a complete volume on poultry farming in his work “De re rustica” written in the year 42.
And it was not until 1844 that the Spanish NicolĂˇs Casas, described in detail the bases of zootechnology, diseases and economy of domestic birds, but mainly of the chickens.
Laying hens facilities in the twentieth century
Since 1930 the hens were already housed in cages, initially housing a laying bird; later more than one hen was introduced in multiple cages. In the early 1950s, poultry farming was considered only a domestic activity, with farms and backyards as its field of operation. In those years there was no health prevention and the only thing that was done to avoid diseases was to sell the birds before the winter season to avoid diseases and their spread.
In addition, artificial incubation was not a common practice, so most of the chicks arrived from hatcheries in the United States to other countries. However, the vast majority arrived in poor conditions due to the long transfer times, which increased the mortality rate and consequently made poultry farming an area where financing was almost non-existent due to the high production risks.
It was in the 80’s that poultry farming began to be standardized and regulated, even the characteristics of cages and facilities began to be the same in all poultry farms, which gradually spread throughout the world in this decade.
The cages are standardized with a height of 40.6 centimeters and 41 x 46 wide by length. The sloping wire floor of each cage allows the egg to roll to the front or back of the cage making collection easier. Automatic egg collection, feeding and drinking systems are also implemented.
The cages were built in relation to the number and size of cages and the type of climate in each region. In temperate climates, where only a roof is needed for protection from sun and rain, triangular (gable) roofs become popular and the width of the roof is determined by the number of rows of cages to be placed.
In this way the technification and intensification of poultry farming begins; increasing with it the number of controlled environment huts, in which the amount of air that will move through the hut is greater, due to the presence of fans for ventilation.
Characteristics of current cages
Currently, technician poultry systems have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Automatic egg collection to obtain better quality eggs.
- Manufacture of accessories and tools totally made of plastic that facilitate cleaning and disinfection.
- Huts with upper windows, which facilitate the access of fresh air to the interior.
- Removable side slats to facilitate cleaning without having to dismantle all the equipment.
- Control of LED lighting at each point of the cabin.
- Plastic feed troughs, with interior protection to avoid feed waste by the hens.
- Nipple drinkers.
From 1980 to date, satisfactory production parameters have been achieved in poultry farming, specifically in caged egg production. However, the latest trends in animal welfare have suggested practices that allow birds to express their natural behaviors, thus increasing their health and well-being. In this way, cage-free egg production has positioned itself and taken on importance around the world. Among the differences that can be observed between caged and floor egg production we can mention the following:
- The investment per caged bird is twice as much as the investment per cage-free bird.
- Caged birds produce 12 fewer eggs in a 52-week laying period compared to a hen in a floor system.
- Cage eggs are heavier.
- Mortality is higher in a cage.
- Labor in cage systems is 50 to 80% more than in floor systems. The difference depends on the degree of automation.
- Hens in cages weigh more at the end of the laying year.
The market itself is demanding better quality eggs so the trend is towards cage-free production and the use of intelligent cages that can monitor the physiological constants of the birds and their production parameters in order to improve them.
Cages and facilities for laying hens today