A cage for laying hens must have certain specific characteristics. Some of the basic ones are
1. laying hens must have 450 cm2 available inside the cage to ensure their comfort and mobility.
2. The cage must have a readily available feeder to provide adequate feed. It is recommended to use a channel feeder, which must provide 10 linear centimeters of space for each bird in the cage.
3. The cage must ensure a supply of clean and available water for the birds. An automatic waterer with two nozzles per cage is recommended; another option is to use a 10 linear centimeter container for each chicken.
4. The ideal height of the battery cage for chickens should be 40 cm, which should cover 65% of the entire cage.
5. The floor of the chicken cage should be strong enough to safely support each leg. It should not be inclined more than 8 degrees, otherwise it will create slippage when the bird wants to move or stand, thus causing discomfort. Cage floors are usually made of
◮14 gauge welding wire
◮ perforated paper
◮ Plastic: Use alone or as a wire covering.
6. The floor of the cage should be a large enough grid size to allow feces to fall freely through the holes. At the same time, the floor grid should prevent the hens' legs from coming out or being trapped. Their condition should be checked frequently to avoid foot damage that can cause infection and thus lead to a decrease in egg production.
Birds, like other thermostatic animals, produce heat, humidity and carbon dioxide as products of their metabolic processes. These factors have a direct impact in determining the population density, i.e. how many birds we will keep in each cage.
Low densities (4 hens per cage) had better results in terms of number and weight of eggs laid. Other studies have obtained better results at higher densities (5 birds per cage), but they relate this to external conditions such as nutrition and genetics. However, the stress created by lack of space can lead to behaviors such as birds eating each other or pecking. In addition, animal welfare guidelines in most countries recommend lower densities to ensure more freedom of movement for the birds kept there.
Therefore, it is important to understand that a well-managed population density will result in the following benefits.
▻ less like-for-like eating and harmful feather pecking between laying hens: no feather pecking between comfortable birds
▻ Good thermoregulation: adequate density will avoid high temperatures that stress the hens and affect egg production.
▻ Access to water and food: if the number of chickens per cage is ideal, they will be able to consume water and food freely, which is essential for optimal posture.
▻ Higher egg production rates and egg weights in certain geographical areas (considering other aspects such as nutrition, genetics, etc.).