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LAYWEL — Result In Brief

Project ID: 502315
Funded under: FP6-POLICIES
Country: Netherlands

Laying the golden egg

New tools and guidelines to support conditions for egg-laying chickens and promote animal welfare are set to bring benefits to the industry and encourage more humane practices.
Laying the golden egg
Poultry farming and egg production have seen their fair share of dismal and inhumane conditions in facilities around the world where animals are seriously mistreated. The EU-funded project 'Welfare implications of changes in production systems for laying hens' (Laywel) investigated welfare implications of poultry farming systems.

The project found that apart from conventional cages which are too restrictive, all systems could extend adequate welfare conditions if factors such as climate, management and design are duly considered. The systems must also meet the different needs of various poultry species and specifically integrate them.

Laywel underlined the major risks such as cannibalism and harmful pecking in large groups, noting that white-feathered genotypes display less counterproductive pecking and should be preferred over others. Interestingly, the project observed that improvement in chicken bone strength, a major issue in confined spaces, is achievable by improving selection of chickens over two generations without compromising productivity significantly.

To help breed and produce healthier chickens, Laywel developed a photographic scoring system that is easy to use and does not depend on any single language. It is ideal for welfare inspectors, researchers, breeders and industry, with the potential to become a global standard.

In addition, the project published a manual to support farmers in keeping the welfare of their poultry in check, facilitating frequent inspections and incorporating tools to measure welfare indicators. This raises awareness on the importance of animal welfare and the benefits it brings to management and production. Knowledge gathering in this area continues, and benefits to the poultry sector could apply to all stakeholders.

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