Influence of age and housing systems on properties of tibia and humerus of Lohmann White hens1: Bone properties of laying hens in commercial housing systems

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Abstract

This study was aimed at analyzing bone properties of Lohmann White hens in different commercial housing systems at various points throughout production. Pullets reared in conventional cages (CC) were either continued in CC or moved to enriched colony cages (EN) at 19 weeks. Pullets reared in cage-free aviaries (AV) were moved to AV hen houses. Bone samples were collected from 60 hens at each of 18 and 72 wk and 30 hens at 26 and 56 wk from each housing system. Left tibiae and humeri were broken under uniform bending to analyze mechanical properties. Cortical geometry was analyzed using digital calipers at the fracture site. Contralateral tibiae and humeri were used for measurement of ash percentage. AV pullets' humeri had 41% greater cortical areas, and tibiae had 19% greater cortical areas than the CC pullets (P < 0.05). Average humeri diameter was greater in AV pullets than in CC pullets (P < 0.05), whereas the tibiae outer dimensions were similar. Aviary pullet bones had greater stiffness (31 and 7% greater for tibiae and humeri, respectively) and second moment of inertia (43 and 13% greater for tibiae and humeri, respectively) than CC pullets (P < 0.05). The differences between bones of AV and CC hens persisted throughout the laying cycle. Moving CC pullets to EN resulted in decreased endosteal resorption in humeri, evident by a 7.5% greater cortical area in the EN hens (P < 0.05). Whole-bone breaking strength did not change with age. Stiffness increased with age, while energy to failure decreased in both the tibiae and humeri. These results indicated that tibiae and humeri of laying hens become stiffer but lose toughness and become brittle with age. Furthermore, AV and EN systems can bring positive changes in mechanical and structural properties that are more pronounced in the humerus than the tibia.

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