Jung, L., Brenninkmeyer, C., Niebuhr, K. et al. 2020. Husbandry conditions and welfare outcomes in organic egg production in eight European countries. Animals 10(11), 2102.
In the European research project HealthyHens, welfare indicators as well as husbandry and management conditions were recorded in 107 organic laying hen farms in eight countries. Farms were visited at peak and end of lay. Egg production was on average comparable to breeder specifications. A mean mortality of 5.7% and mean prevalences of footpad lesions of 30.5%, keel bone damage of 44.5%, 57.3% of flocks with on average >200 Ascarid eggs per gram faeces and 28.2% of flocks with >100 mites/trap were recorded. A large variation between flocks indicated options for improvement. Based on the results, the following measures can be recommended: (i) decreasing mite and worm infestation and (ii) providing an attractive covered veranda, because of their association with decreased mortality; (iii) maximising access to the free range, because of its relation to decreased A. galli infection and less injurious pecking; (iv) feeding sufficient protein levels and (v) providing adequate litter as preventive measure against feather pecking and cannibalism; (vi) ensuring that the birds have sufficient weight and (vii) preventing accidents by adequate hen house facilities and light conditions to reduce keel bone damage. These primarily management-based measures have the potential to improve bird welfare both in terms of behavioural and health aspects.