Assessment of lighting needs by W-36 laying hens via preference test


Light intensity, spectrum and pattern may affect laying hen behaviors and production performance. However, requirements of these lighting parameters from the hens’ standpoint are not fully understood. This study was conducted to investigate hens’ needs for light intensity and circadian rhythm using a light tunnel with five identical compartments each at a different fluorescent light intensity of <1, 5, 15, 30 or 100 lux. The hens were able to move freely among the respective compartments. A group of four W-36 laying hens (23 to 30 weeks of age) were tested each time, and six groups or replicates were conducted. Behaviors of the hens were continuously recorded, yielding data on daily time spent, daily feed intake, daily feeding time, and eggs laid under each light intensity and daily inter-compartment movement. The results show that the hens generally spent more time in lower light intensities. Specifically, the hens spent 6.4 h (45.4%) at 5 lux, 3.0 h (22.1%) at 15 lux, 3.1 h (22.2%) at 30 lux and 1.5 h (10.3%) at 100 lux under light condition; and an accumulation of 10.0 h in darkness (<1 lux) per day. The 10-h dark period was distributed intermittently throughout the day, averaging 25.0±0.4 min per hour. This hourly light-dark rhythm differs from the typical commercial practice of providing continuous dark period for certain part of the day (e.g. 8 h at night). Distributions of daily feed intake (87.3 g/hen) among the different light conditions mirrored the trend of time spent in the respective light intensity, that is, highest at 5 lux (28.4 g/hen, 32.5% daily total) and lowest at 100 lux (5.8 g/hen, 6.7%). Hen-day egg production rate was 96.0%. Most of the eggs were laid in <1 lux (61.9% of total) which was significantly higher than under other light intensities (P<0.05). Findings from this study offer insights into preference of fluorescent light intensity by the laying hens. Further studies to assess or verify welfare and performance responses of the hens to the preferred lighting conditions and rhythm over extended periods are recommended.

animal 10 (4), 671-680. Cambridge University Press