Animal Science Department
Effect of cooled perches on performance, plumage condition, and foot health of caged White Leghorn hens exposed to cyclic heat
Date of this Version
2019 Poultry Science 98:2705–2718 http://dx.doi.org/10.3382/ps/pez039
We examined the effects of water-chilled perches as cooling devices on hen performance during 2 summers using daily cyclic heat. White Leghorns, 17 wk of age, were assigned to 36 cages arranged into 6 banks. The banks were assigned to cooled perches, air perches, and no perches resulting in 2 replicate banks and 12 cages per treatment. Chilled water (10◦C) was circulated through the cooled perches during heat episodes. Daily cyclic heat of 35◦C was applied from 0600 to1800 h with a lowering of temperature to 28◦C from 1800 to 0600 h during the 2014 and 2015 summers when hens were 21 to 35 and 73 to 80 wk of age, respectively. Mortality and egg production were recorded daily. Feed utilization, egg weight, and shell quality traits were measured at 4-wk intervals during the heat episodes and at 8-wk intervals during thermoneutrality. Body weight was determined at 17, 35, 72, and 80 wk of age and physical condition at 80 wk of age. At several ages during the heat episodes, cooled perch hens had increased egg production (P < 0.0001) and feed usage (P < 0.04) as compared to both air perch and control hens. The cooled perch hens had higher BW at 35 and 72 wk of age (Ptreatmentage = 0.03) and lower cumulative mortality (P = 0.02) than control hens but not air perch hens. Eggs from cooled perch hens had overall heavier weights (P < 0.0001) and higher breaking force (P < 0.0001) than eggs from the other two group hens. Greater eggshell percentage (Ptreatmentage = 0.03) and eggshell thickness (Ptreatmentage = 0.01) occurred at some ages during the 2 heat episodes as compared to the other 2 treatments. Nail length, feet hyperkerato sis, and overall feather score were similar among treatments. These results indicate that cooled perch ameliorates the negative effects of heat stress on egg traits and performance without influencing the physical condition of hens.