Work Packages

WP1: Laying hen welfare: definition and indicators (leader: UHOH )
This WP is meant to set a general starting point for the Laywel project and to have agreement on what parameters are important for measuring welfare.
Although several definitions are published no consensus have been achieved. Also most attempts have been focussed on the perception of welfare in Northern Europe. WP1 has studied the various definitions and criteria or measurements made to relate to welfare. An overview of these have been extensively discussed with partners and stakeholders. The final report have been used by all partners as a basis for the other WPs.

WP2: Description of housing systems for laying hens (leader: idlelystad )
WP2 has focussed on housing systems for laying hens. Council Directive 74/1999 defines 3 categories. However, to determine the relation between welfare and housing, a more detailed categorisation is needed. WP2 has produced a detailed description of more categories of housing.
systems. This description is agreed on by the partners and is used as basis for the evaluation of welfare of hens in various systems. Besides this task WP 2 has made an overview of the situation in Europe with regards to housing systems used and number of hens housed in them.

WP3: Health (Leader: SLU )
The overall objective of WP3 was to generate, process and compile relevant data on the health of laying hens in enriched cages and alternative housing systems. An important part of this task was the co-ordination and documentation of a scoring system for bird health and welfare, including the condition of the integument. The result is a photographically documented scoring system for white as well as for brown genotypes that makes it possible to compare trials done in different countries. Another task of WP3 was the compilation of data on health traits and mortality from lab studies and commercial farms. This task was combined with similar tasks in WP4, 5 and 6, where data on behaviour, physiology and egg production were collected. For this goal a lot of effort was put in the set-up of a good database, that facilitated all partners to contribute data in the same format and that enabled statistical analysis.

WP4: Behaviour (Leader: DIAS )
The overall objective of WP4 was to generate data concerning the needs, preferences, distribution, behaviour and use of facilities and enrichment components by laying hens. The housing system categories as described in WP2 were investigated with regards the way hens use the facilities. As most of the discussion is about litter, special emphasis was put on this aspect. Also regarding behaviour in furnished cages and other production systems feather pecking is a major issue and therefore was discussed in detail. To make the outcome viable various hybrids kept at different group sizes and stocking densities were studied.

WP5: Physiological stress indicators (leader: INRA )
The objective of WP5 was to find and formulate physiological parameters that give objective information on the actual stress levels of laying hens. A list of physiological parameters was made and one or more appropriate ones were chosen. Corticosterone in plasma and faeces play an important role in this, but also heterophil-lymphocyte ratio (H/L) is considered as a good stress indicator. Apart from defining the best physiological indicators, also research was conducted to see if birds in different housing systems have a different physiological response and thus may experience differences in stress.

WP6: Productivity and Egg quality (Leader: ADAS )
The objective of WP6 was to describe the productivity and egg quality traits of laying hens in different production systems in relation to welfare. For this purpose a database was set up. This database was also used to collect data for other WPs. From the database various production parameters per housing system were studied. Productivity is not a very strong parameter for poultry welfare, as reduced welfare is not immediately reflected in the production. And also good production is no guarantee for good welfare.

WP7: Integrated welfare assessment (Leader: UNIVBRIS )
The objective of WP7 was to integrate the information obtained from all preceding WPs to make an overall assessment of the impact of enriched cages and alternative housing systems on the welfare of the laying hen. This was done on two levels. First a report was made evaluating the welfare of laying hens in various systems. The pros and cons of each system was discussed. Second a manual was produced to enable an on-farm assessment of the welfare of the birds. This is basically a self-assessment tool for farmers to enable them to evaluate welfare of their own hens. The manual also gives guidelines for possible improvements in bird welfare.