Optimal light environment for laying hens

Last changed: 04 February 2020
Photo: White hens in cutting.

Vision is the laying hens´ most important sense that guides them in their daily activities such as finding food, recognizing fellow birds and move around safely in more complex housing systems.

Birds´ visual system differs from the human and hens are more specialized to be day active and require certain light intensities and a broader spectrum containing UV to have an optimal vision. However, high light intensities in the housing, especially if it is distributed in a patchy way, can be related to problems with e.g. feather pecking. Feather pecking is when birds pull out feathers on other birds which lead to pain and stress and can in worst case develop into cannibalistic pecking. A common solution to reduce feather pecking, if it occurs, is to lower the hens´ overall activity level by reducing the light intensity, likely impairing birds´ ability to perform important behaviours. Thus,

providing hens with a suitable light environment is a challenge. This project will investigate the visual ability of laying hens on a detailed level in different light spectrums and intensities using individual behaviour tests and physiological measures. Effects of the most promising light regimes on behaviours such as feather pecking will be assessed on group level with the aim to find a light regime that contribute to a good welfare under practical conditions. Since poorly feathered hen consumes more feed, there are also economic benefits of improved plumage by improved light conditions.

The type of light and intensity provided for laying hens are an important part of their housing condition that can have a large effect on their behaviour and welfare. Birds´ vision is different from the human and through more knowledge about how hens experience their visual environment we can get an improved understanding of how they are affected by different light conditions and be able to adapt these to suit their needs.

For more information, please contact: Anette Wichman

Page editor: gunilla.jacobsson@slu.se