Why is light distribution crucial in poultry management?
News - placed on 15/08/2017
Estimated reading time: 8.0 minutes
Editor: Kim Geurts - Agricultural Lighting Advisor
Although it is an often overlooked part of poultry housing equipment, light is a very important aspect in poultry management. It has a direct influence on both animal welfare and production. One of the important aspects of poultry lighting is light distribution.
In short, light distribution stands for the spread of light. When the light spread is equal in the whole house (meaning there are no dark or bright spots), we speak of a good light distribution. When the light spread isn’t equal, causing dark or bright spots, we speak of a bad light distribution.
Keep in mind that chickens see light differently than human beings. When the light distribution may look just fine for a human being, it may be far from perfect for chickens.
Before we continue: always keep this in mind when managing poultry!
The light distribution in any house depends on which lighting products have been installed. When deciding on the installation, it is important to take the dimensions of the house into account. Different, heights, lengths and depths demand different types of lighting products. The wrong type of lighting or incorrectly installed products will cause poor light distribution.
Always make a well-informed choice when purchasing a new lighting installation.
When setting up a light installation for broilers, it is important to take the brooding type in mind as well (next to the housing dimensions).
Figure 1. The effect of light distribution on the spread of broilers.
Shadows and bright spots, caused by bad light distribution, may cause a poor spread of broilers that possibly leads to piling. Figure 1. shows the effect of light distribution on the spread of broilers. Piling, the intense grouping of broilers, causes wet litter, which can lead to footpad lesions and breast blisters. This increases mortality, decreases animal welfare and uniform growth and thus impacts profit.
Furthermore, piling (possibly caused by bad light distribution) will increase competition for food and water. Last but not least, piling can lead to a bad bird heat distribution throughout the house which will raise heating costs.
By making use of lighting solutions that secure a perfect light spread, clustering can be prevented, creating lots of possible advantages:
- Decrease of mortality
- Increase of animal welfare
- Uniform growth
- Prevention of competition for feed and water
- Better bird heat distribution
- Increase in profits!
There are several types of layer housing systems; cage housing, enriched cage housing, colony housing and aviary housing are the most common ones. Every type requires specific lighting management, each with its own demands.
ENRICHED CAGE HOUSING
Another common type of cage housing is enriched cage housing. The enrichment of traditional cages including more space, litter, perches, a scratchpad and a nest has resulted in a need for different light management.
Again, shadows, as an element of bad light distribution, may cause insufficient stimulation of the hen’s feed intake. Bright spots can be caused by a poor light distribution in general or by high light intensities at places where the bulbs are closest to the cages. These bright spots may cause the hen stress and trigger undesirable behaviour such as feather pecking. Non-optimal usage of the cage may also be caused by bad light distribution.
As with traditional cage housing, the focus should be on the feeding line in enriched cage housing systems. The right amount of light on every feeding line on every tier is necessary to stimulate a high, but controlled feed intake. There must be some light inside the cage to encourage both correct water intake and use of the enriched cage’s interior. The nest area however, should be dark, but not lightproof. The difference in light intensity between the activity area and the nest area stimulates the utilisation of both areas.
The prime solution to encourage the layers to exploit their enriched cages to the fullest, whilst stimulating them towards a highly controlled feed intake is the BUBO: our highly energy-saving, easy to install LED tube.
As with traditional cage housing, the focus should be on the feeding line. A proper light distribution will lead to:
- Prevention of bright spots leading to a decrease in feather pecking and mortality.
- Prevention of shadows, leading to a higher food intake and thus a higher egg production.
- Utilisation of both activity and nesting area due to difference in light intensity.
- Increased profits!
A colony housing is, apart from the amount of space provided, virtually identical to an enriched cage housing system. Consequently, the same approach to lighting management should be taken as with enriched cage housing.
Light management in aviaries is different to light management in cage housing systems. Layers can roam around freely in aviaries. Aviaries consist of multiple layers and multiple areas; each area has its own function. The lighting installation should provide the appropriate amount of light in the litter area, inside the aviaries and below the aviaries.
The litter area must be lit by main lighting that stimulates activity and controls the layer’s biological clock. Figure 3 shows an example of a main lighting installation. The CORAX is the perfect lighting solution for lower aviaries because of its perfect light distribution.
Figure 3. Lighting the litter area: CORAX
Inside the aviary
The inside of the aviary consists of a feed area, a drinking area and nest boxes. The lighting products inside the aviary should keep the light climate equal to that of the litter area (in between the aviaries).
Figure 4. shows an example of BUBO lighting inside the aviary. Lighting solutions inside the aviary provide a strong stimulus to eat and drink. However, there must be a clear difference between the nest boxes and the activity area inside the aviary. Nest boxes should be dark, but not lightproof, whilst the feeding and drinking area inside the aviary should be lit properly in order to stimulate activity.
Figure 4. Lighting inside the aviary: BUBO
Below the aviary
The lighting climate below the aviary should also be similar to that in the litter area. Light distribution should be even, bright spots and shadows must be prevented and light intensity must be high. Poor light distribution and an incorrect light intensity may trigger hens to lay eggs below the system. These eggs, better known as floor eggs, are considered to be second grade eggs which are not as hygienic as eggs laid in the correct nesting place. Apart from lower quality, floor eggs also increase labour, as they have to be collected manually - unlike eggs which have been laid inside the nest boxes.
Figure 5. shows an example of BUBO lighting below the aviary. Thanks to its ideal size and easy installation, this energy-saving LED tube is the ideal solution to stimulate your flock’s feed intake, whilst preventing the area below the system from becoming a nesting area.
Figure 5. Lighting below the aviary: BUBO
Use lighting (and thus proper light distribution) to stimulate the hens’ activity and make sure they use every corner of the aviary. Make sure the litter area, the area inside the aviary and the area below the system are all well-lit. This will:
- Support a high, but controlled feed intake
- Prevent floor eggs with all advantages included
- Stimulate optimal usage of the aviary
- Increase profits
In poultry management, always make a well-informed choice regarding your light installation, since it can have major consequences. As one of the key aspects of lighting, light distribution plays a major role in all broiler and layer applications; make sure you opt for a lighting system that provides a perfect light distribution and always take the measurements of your house into account!
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