Date of this Version
2019 Poultry Science 98:4290–4300 http://dx.doi.org/10.3382/ps/pez317
This study examined the effect of water chilled perches on hen production and physiological responses to induced molt during elevated temperatures. A total of 288White Leghorns at 82 wk of age were housed in 36 cages of 6 banks. Each bank was assigned to 1 of 3 treatments: cooled perches, air perches, and no perches. The hens were subjected to 2 heat episodes during their first laying cycle at week 21 to 35 and week 73 to 80, respectively. The hens were subjected to a 28 D nonfasted molting regimen starting at 85 wk of age. Cyclic heat of 32◦C (6:00 am to 6:00 pm) was applied daily during the molting period. After molt, hens were returned to a layer diet and housed under thermoneutral condition. Two birds per cage were monitored for BW change during molt. Egg production was recorded daily. Feed utilization was measured during molt at 86 and 88 wk of age. Egg weight and eggshell traits were examined at 84 wk (pre-molt) and postmolt at 92, 96, and 104 wk of age. Rectal temperature and blood samples were collected from 2 birds per cage at the end of molt. Blood samples were used for determining heterophil/lymphocyte ratio, corticosterone, and thyroid hormones. Plumage condition was examined at 22 wk post-molt. Compared to control and air perch hens, cooled perch hens had higher feed usage and greater BW loss, lower heterophil/lymphocyte ratios (P < 0.05) with no difference in thyroid hormones and corticosterone at the end of molt. Cooled perch hens also had higher egg production beginning at 98 wk of age (Ptreatmentage < 0.0001) than control hens and sometimes the air-perch hens. Cooled perch hens had higher rectal temperature than control but not air perch hens at end of molt. Moreover, cooled perch hens had better breast feather scores than air perch hens but worse vent plumage (P ≤ 0.05) than both control and air perch hens. These results indicate that the provision of cooled perches assists hens with better adaptation to stressors, such as induced molt plus heat exposure, resulting in improved post-molt egg production.