Abstract : In order to improve the welfare of laying hens, the housing in conventional cages would be banned from 2012 onward. The aim of this work was to study the welfare and the adaptation of hens housed in an alternative housing system that demands specific adaptation abilities from hens: the laying aviaries.
We compared the welfare of hens housed in laying aviaries and in conventional cages. Then, we tested the influence of two designs of rearing systems (furnished floor pens vs. rearing aviaries) on the hens' adaptation to laying aviaries. Welfare and adaptation were evaluated with various indicators: behaviour (emotional reactivity, use of space, motivation to dust bathe), stress response, health and productivity.
The welfare was globally better in aviaries than in conventional cages and the hens coming from rearing aviaries were more adapted to laying aviaries than the hens coming from furnished floor pens.