HENS housed in colony systems usually prefer to lay their eggs in nests, but it is not unusual for some eggs to be laid on the floor of the hen house or on the ground, and in some cases, the incidence of floor eggs can be quite high, according to the University of Bristol in the U.K.
A new study aims to identify the most important risk factors for floor laying in hens and explore whether any of the methods farmers currently employ to deal with the problem actually work, according to an announcement.
Floor eggs can have increased risk of being soiled by manure or being cracked. They may also not be found quickly by the egg collector. Consequently, floor eggs are more likely to be contaminated by bacteria, which reduces their shelf life and makes them more prone to carry foodborne pathogens, the announcement said. Broken floor eggs may also trigger birds in the flock to eat the eggs, a behavior that can be hard to stop once it starts.
The survey, led by academics in the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences, hopes to find out from egg producers how widespread the floor egg problem is in the U.K. and to gather information about what factors might affect the issue.
The researchers said they would particularly like to understand if there is any association between the severity of the floor egg issue and such factors as:
* Hen breed, i.e., whether there is a genetic influence;
* Level and type of intervention by the farmer to reduce the number of floor eggs;
* General flock management practices, such as diet and husbandry;
* Housing conditions, and
* Age of hens when they come into lay and peak in production.
Study leader Margarita Maltseva-Williams, a postgraduate in clinical veterinary science, said, "Very little research has been done on why some hens lay their eggs on the floor of the hen house or on the ground, and as far as I am aware, this is the first survey to explore the issue on commercial farms.
"Floor laying in hens can be a real problem for farmers, and we hope the findings from our study will help them and their flocks in the future," she said.