Latest update on HenTrack 1.0

Published on Nov. 10, 2021

Latest update on HenTrack 1.0

HenTrack is a research project that focuses on the identification of laying hen behavior related to laying hen welfare in cage-free housing systems. The goal is to improve the current breeding methods that are used to select laying hens for the various housing systems.

For poultry breeders it is not always easy to select laying hens that thrive in all housing systems. The goal of this research collaboration between Hendrix Genetics Layers and Dr. Michael Toscano, the group leader of the Center of proper Housing of Poultry and Rabbits (ZTHZ) in Switzerland, is to identify new traits, and the appropriate methods to keep track of these traits in alternative housing systems for egg layers.

The HenTrack project will make use of the state-of-the-art, large-scale cage-free research facilities at The Aviforum in Zollikofen, Switzerland to conduct detailed, continuous observations on the behavior, the health, and the welfare of individual laying hens over the laying period. Combining behavioral patterns with animal health and welfare indicators will allow Hendrix Genetics Layers to add new traits (phenotypes) to their breeding program. Which will help to bring the performance of their breeds in alternative housing systems to an even higher level.

The data that is currently generated by HenTrack 1.0 includes information on how animals acclimate to standard commercial stressors such as human interference, environmental conditions, and vaccinations, as well as variation in use of their environment, including access to the wintergarden and the use of popholes. Information collected at the Aviforum, using large groups, within a commercial aviary housing system, will be combined with traditional breeding evaluations conducted by a team of laying hen geneticists, in small family groups and more focused observations on productivity and egg quality.

In HenTrack 1.0, Dekalb White laying hens are tracked. The Dekalb White is a chicken breed that is quickly gaining market share in markets that are moving away from caged housing. The Dekalb White laying hens are recognized for their docile behavior and excellent performance in terms of egg laying persistency, egg quality and overall livability, in cage-free housing systems.

Jeroen Visscher colleague layers

“We are continuously looking for improvements in our breeding program. The unique research facilities of the Aviforum, combined with the excellent research group of Dr. Toscano will allow us to investigate the fundamentals needed to design and implement future in-house research barn lay-outs and breeding strategies”

Jeroen Visscher colleague layers
Jeroen Visscher
Manager Research & Development of Hendrix Genetics Layers.

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