Egg production: Conventional cages VS Free-range

Commercial egg production in South Africa is primarily practiced intensively, while small-scale egg production is practiced semi-intensively.

Semi-intensive egg production is normally practiced in open-sided houses and within free-ranging systems.

The stocking density depends on the type of housing system used the average size of the layer.

With the Open-sided housing system, these houses are open at the sides and make use of natural ventilation. Usually, there are curtains that can be rolled up and down over the openings depending on the ambient temperature. These houses are not light-proof.

When it comes to Free-range, chickens are not confined to the layer house but are allowed to roam in a larger but demarcated outside area. These birds have access to pastures and may forage grass, seeds and insects. Some free-range operations may use moveable houses or pens that can be moved regularly.

Intensive egg production is best practiced in environmentally-controlled houses. Here birds can be stocked at higher densities as the environment can be effectively controlled according to the requirement of the birds.

Environmentally controlled houses are light-proof. Artificial light and forced-ventilation by exhaust fans are used in the building.

Light, temperature and ventilation are closely controlled according to the requirement of the layers.

The housing and management of layer chickens can be carried out using two housing systems – the conventional cages or a free-range system.

The layer house should be located away from other farm structures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The ground should allow good water drainage, adequate light fixtures are needed to provide proper light intensity and the houses should allow plenty of ventilation and natural light as possible.

Egg production: Conventional cages VS Free-range
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