Colonies called hen housing choice of future

Published on: Feb 2, 2013

Two U.S. egg producers who have installed enriched colony cage housing systems on their egg farms are fairly pleased with the results, according to presentations that they made to an egg industry meeting at the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 31.

Eric Benson, chief executive officer and president at JS West & Companies in California, and Rob Knecht, vice president for operations at Konos Inc. in Michigan, said construction costs were about 25% more for installing the colonies versus conventional caging -- about $25 per bird -- but otherwise, operating costs were comparable.

Importantly, they said, they are getting improved performance from their colonies.

Knect said, based on birds at 60 weeks, egg production is higher, feed consumption is lower and mortality is lower.

He attributed decreased feed consumption to the fact there is less competition for feed, which means that there is less urgency to eat so the birds eat less, and he said aggression seems to be controlled because the birds "are occupied" by nests, perches and scratching pads.

He also said he has observed wing expansion.

Benson said he's convinced enriched colonies are the "obvious choice" for the future, and if producers are planning to install new systems, they should consider colonies.