Canadian Poultry Magazine

Alternative Housing Supplement: Preparing for your first aviary

By Erika Prewitt   

Features Barn Management

Tips and tricks to help ease the transition.

For insights, nothing beats sitting in the barn to watch your flock. The hens will tell you what they need. PHOTO CREDIT: Big Dutchman

Transitioning from a caged or enriched system to an aviary can be scary if you feel unprepared. Here a few tips and tricks to help with your first aviary flock.

Being flexible with your aviary system management is crucial for success. Every flock is different. That will be the only consistent thing that will happen – change.  How you light and manage flocks and your daily routine will vary.

This is necessary. I’ve seen layer flocks raised as pullets in the same system, at the same barn, and with the same genetics require very different management techniques. The key is to adapt.


For insights, nothing beats sitting in the barn to watch your flock.The hens will tell you what they need.

Producers often overlook the importance of data. Without it, you don’t know when a problem arises or improves. From the very beginning, create an easy to implement data collection system.

Keep the data collection sheets simple. They should be located at the end of the aisle on a clipboard with an attached pen. Make sure barn workers know how important these data sheets are.

Data fields to track should include mortality, number of floor eggs and number of system eggs. When you notice a significant increase in these numbers in any category, barn walkers should be able to show you where most are occurring and at what time of day.

Both can be helpful to industry experts to assist you with the given issues. For example, if you have increased floor eggs, your sheet should tell you when the issue started to escalate and the percentage of floor eggs that is occurring. If the barn workers are also able to tell you where and when they are laid, this can be helpful for combating the issue.

If I had to give one single piece of advice for someone looking to house their first aviary layer flock, it would be to house it with aviary-reared pullets. They learn to navigate and move through an aviary system at a young age.

Having this crucial advantage will help you greatly. 

I hope you are successful in managing your first aviary layer house and don’t forget to ask your industry experts and reps for help. 

Erika Prewitt is aviary systems specialist with Big Dutchman North America.

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