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Levels of mortality in hens by end of lay on farm and in transit to slaughter in Great Britain
  1. C. A. Weeks, BSc, PhD,
  2. S. N. Brown, HNC, MIBiol,
  3. G. J. Richards, BSc, MSc,
  4. L. J. Wilkins, HNC, MIBiol and
  5. T. G. Knowles, BSc, MSc, PhD, CStat, CBiol, MSB
  1. Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group, School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol, BS40 5DU, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence: claire.weeks{at}bristol.ac.uk

The average mortality for end of lay hens dead on arrival (DOA) was 0.27 per cent (median 0.15 per cent) in a survey of 13.3 million hens transported during 2009. A statistical model of the data indicated main risk factors for DOA to be slaughter plant, distance travelled and external air temperature, with longer journeys and low external air temperatures increasing the risk. Other highly significant risk factors (P < 0.001) related to the condition of the birds on farm, where an increased risk of DOA was positively associated with poor feather cover, lower body weight, cumulative mortality of the flock and poor health (indicated by a high proportion of the load rejected at the plant for traumatic injury and disease state). However, the data indicate that by taking risk factors into consideration it is possible to transport hens up to 960 km with low losses in temperate conditions. Mean levels of on-farm mortality, during the laying period, for a total of 1486 flocks were significantly lower in cages (5.39 per cent) than in barn (8.55 per cent), free-range (9.52 per cent) or organic flocks (8.68 per cent) according to producer records a median of seven days before depopulation, with considerable variation between flocks in all systems.

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