Improving the welfare of free-range hens
A NEW report published by Morrisons is helping farmers tackle the health of free-range hens.
Poultry experts from Bristol University, funded by Morrisons, examined health challenges facing free-range laying hens and identified where improvements could be made.
The report suggested verandas for the birds and the early scrutiny of eggshells, which can reveal signs of stress and health problems, could improve their welfare.
Adjustments to the time at which pullets, hens under a year old, are introduced to the laying farm are also suggested.
The report stated there has been ‘astonishingly little’ research into the subject by the scientific community to date.
Results from the report will be shared with egg producers who are part of Morrisons’ producer group network and who supply the food retailer with free-range eggs.
One suggested measure is verandas, or winter gardens, for the birds. The glass structures would keep the birds dry and offer sunlight, exercise, reduced stocking density and clean air without the exposure to predators, wild birds and infection.
The report also explains the early treatment of birds laying eggsdisplaying the tell-tale signs of distress on the shell, such as white specks, lumps or ridging, may help to avoid long-term ill health and poor productivity.