Cage system makes it easy to monitor laying percentage in your flock.
Under deep litter, it is much harder to monitor the birds since they move frequently, thus could turn costly especially for telephone farmers.
The process of identifying unproductive birds is also difficult under deep litter. Collection of eggs with dirty shells is eliminated in battery cage although tiny shelled eggs can easily crack.
Therefore, battery cage system provides the best opportunity for close supervision of individual birds so that capabilities and productiveness are monitored.
Chicken vices, disease and parasites
Good health is a prerequisite for a birds’ welfare. Under battery cage system, birds do not come in contact with their droppings hence there is less occurrence of parasitic diseases such as worms and coccidiosis hence lower mortality.
If in anyway there is disease outbreak, it spreads faster in deep litter system.
While in cages birds are not exposed to wetting floors or litters, a well-managed deep litter in dry condition with no wet spots around watering points has sterilising action.
It is therefore a requirement that litter is changed periodically as occasions demand to prevent infectious diseases building up including parasite infestations.
Chicken vices such as cannibalism, pecking and egg eating are common practices under deep litter system, translating to loss of revenue.
These are more controlled in battery cage system. It is easier to pick a hen from a cage for different purposes compared to catching birds under deep litter system.
Under battery system, hens are confined to a cage just large enough to permit very limited movement and allow them stand or sit comfortably.
As such, the birds’ social welfare is compromised since most cages usually accommodate one to three birds.
In fact, some countries term raising birds under battery cage ‘imprisoning the birds’.
Further, battery cage is associated with higher incidences of leg problem, cage fatigue, fatty liver syndrome which is increased deposition of fat in the body.
Under deep litter, birds run and mingle freely thereby creating free social welfare.
The free movement is also of advantage as the floor litter maintains its own temperature, so birds burrow into it when atmospheric temperature is high, thereby cooling themselves.
Conversely, they can warm themselves in the same way when the weather is very cool.
Labour requirement and manure
Guano manure is a valuable economic factor with deep litter system.
According to previous researches, a flock of 35 laying birds can produce about a tonne of deep litter manure in a year.
It is, however, easier to evacuate waste in the battery cage system unlike the deep litter.
For labour, cleaning out laying boxes, feeders and waterers regularly means quite a lot of work since they get ‘soiled’ by birds.
This extra labour is not as much compared to battery cage system, which goes a long way to save labour.
With these insights, you can easily compare the two systems and choose wisely.
Opinya works at the Department of Animal Science, Egerton University.