The effects of UV-A light provided in addition to standard lighting on plumage condition in laying hens
Natural light with ultraviolet spectrum (UV) influences the birds´ perception, the reflectivity of their plumage and affects bird behavior. Therefore, in Germany, laying hens kept in barns should be provided with daylight inlets. Nevertheless, lighting in laying hen houses with a UV proportion is not common practice and little is known about the detailed effects of UV-A lighting during the entire rearing and production period. The present on-farm study examines the impact of light quality on plumage loss, skin injuries and production parameters of laying hens. Therefore, about 92,000 Lohmann Brown hens with untrimmed beaks were kept on a farm in two different groups. Half of them were housed in a barn containing 10 pens illuminated by additional UV-A light (simulate "daylight spectrum"). The other half in the second barn were equally grouped, but exposed to standard lighting for poultry houses. Health, production parameters and plumage condition were monitored during rearing and production. The study results reveal that additional UV-A light is associated with the occurrence of plumage damage and cannibalistic injuries during production. In all groups, the plumage condition of the hens was intact when the hens started laying and declined with age. Therefore, complex interactions alongside UV illumination, environmental enrichment, feed and feeding strategies as well as other management factors that possibly affected both feather damage and skin injuries must also be taken into account.