EXTENSIVE trials have been underway on one Lancashire farm to try and prove once and for all that introducing music into laying hen sheds can improve welfare and bird performance.
While many producers will put a radio in with hens, Glen Haggart, who manages 64,000 birds at Addington Farm, Lancashire, has undertaken a far more detailed investigation.
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He is working with Innovative Farmers, a small grant scheme that supports farm businesses in trialling new ways to produce food and his packer Stonegate, which is sponsoring the project.
Mr Haggart says that he believes introducing varied noises can help hens manage unexpected sounds from outside sheds or noises made by machinery like fans.
He is part-way through a full-flock trial with Dekalb white birds, which he hopes will be taken to 100 weeks in lay without beak treatment.
Speaking at the recent NFU Poultry Research Seminar, he said that he hoped to prove strategic deployment of music and other sounds could help a flock with
- Reducing anxiety
- Familiarising birds with adverse noises
- Reduced aggression
- Increased egg production
- Extended hen lifespan
“We’re trying to create harmonious atmosphere throughout the house and counteract adverse noises in the shed environment.”
Adverse noises could include the sound from equipment in sheds like fans, or external noises from things like bad weather, or low-flying aircraft, for example.
“What we’re trying to do is distract the bird, reassure the bird and try and reduce anxiety and aggression.”
Previous trials just used Classic FM, but the strategy has evolved.
Now, classical music is played when birds are laying eggs, and more ‘playful’ pop songs are piped into sheds in the afternoon when birds are most active.
People talking, machinery sounds, and other animal sounds have all been tried alongside the music.
The trials have evolved from simply trying out a radio to a more sophisticated set up with a 16,000-bird flock that will have music played will be compared with a music-free shed.
The next step could be trialling music in nest boxes or adding sound sensors to detect reactions to the stimuli more accurately.
Another trial could see music played to pullets before transfer to get them used to music before they arrive at the layer farm.
“What we’ve done has mostly been observational learning so far. We’re proactive and reactively adapting to the music and sounds as they go along,” explained Mr Haggart.
“We’re always learning and adapting and evolving what we’re going to do.”