Effects of rearing systems on laying performance, egg quality, and serum biochemistry of Xianju chickens in summer

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The objective of this study was to compare the laying performance, egg quality, and serum biochemistry of hens maintained in conventional cage rearing system (CRS), flat net-rearing system (NRS), and free range system (FRS) under summer conditions. Indigenous Xianju chickens (n = 540) were randomly allocated into cages or pens of rearing system groups, within each system there were 5 replicates with 36 hens in each replicate. The experiment lasted between 21 and 29 wk of age. Hen-day egg production (P = 0.00) and egg mass (P = 0.00) were higher in the CRS but were similar in the NRS and FRS. Lowest egg weight (P = 0.02), yolk weight (P = 0.00) and yolk ratio (P = 0.01), and feed intake (P = 0.01) were observed from the FRS, whereas lowest feed conversion ratio (FCR) was recorded from the CRS (P = 0.01). Rearing systems had negligible effect on egg quality. Serum Ca (P = 0.04) and total protein (P = 0.03) levels were found to be higher in the CRS but were lower in the FRS. Serum levels of glucose (P = 0.01), cholesterol (P = 0.00), and triglyceride (P = 0.00) in the CRS increased compared with the NRS and FRS groups, whereas serum levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C; P = 0.01) in the CRS decreased. It can be concluded that under summer conditions, Xianju chickens from CRS had an advantage in terms of productivity parameters, but exhibited higher levels of serum lipids and glucose.

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