Alternative Housing
Conventional cage laying barns have always been dusty, notes Harry Huffman, an agricultural engineer based in London, Ont. “Thus, I would assume the new floor and aviary style of housing systems will continue to be dusty as well.” Huffman notes that the more important ventilation design parameters in a layer barn hinge around the number and size of birds being housed, and how airflow should occur through the airspace to accommodate the building specs.
Published in Eggs - Layers
Nesting behaviour in laying hens is complex, and according to poultry scientists such as Dr. Michelle Hunniford of the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario, there’s a lot left to discover.
Published in Eggs - Layers
February turned out to begin very cold, more snow and windy. Any work that could be done inside the new barn building was done when temperatures were not frigid. Some days were too cold to get any work done.

Electrical lines for lights got installed on the ceiling and the baffle on the west side. Any work that had to be done on the ceiling or high areas had to be done before the scissor lift got picked up.

The arrangement with the scissor lift was that you pay a weekly rate, and when you have it for three weeks, you get the fourth week free. This is what worked for us.

From February 4 - 6, the insulation got put in the attic. The first day was very mild with the snow melting on the roof causing a steady stream of dripping off the steel roof. This job had two fellows who were experienced in insulating attics completing the work.

We had two overhead doors to be installed – one for the cooler for Burnbrae Farms to do their weekly pick-up of eggs, and the other as a big entrance to the main barn when the birds arrive and then depart after 51 weeks.

Timing for this had to be when the interior was completed so that the doors could be fastened to completed walls and ceiling.

Again, working in a freezing temperature environment had to be avoided.

Both doors got installed February 11 and finishing these up occurred the next weekend.

For the entire month, we were anticipating getting the concrete for the floor poured.


I have never watched the weather forecast so diligently, and part of frustrating February was that we wanted the concrete floor to get poured.

Nick chose a warmer stretch of weather later in the month to start using propane to run the heater to begin thawing the ground.

Preparation work to level the floor for concrete took place on February 23 and continued early in the next week. The weather forecast had sun and mild temperatures for that week.

Once again, loads of stone were brought in, a bobcat brought stone inside, and a roller flattened out the floor to make it level with the help of laser level that was set up on a tripod in the corner of the barn.

February 28 brought a 13-degree day, and the concrete floor was finally poured.

There were a dozen guys doing the pour, running the concrete pumping truck, and spreading and levelling the concrete.

The first concrete truck came by 8:00 A.M. and the last truck load was done by 12-noon. A truck came every half hour. All of this activity brought curious neighbors to sneak a peek at all the action going on.

The next couple days were filled with finishing the concrete with power trowels to give it a smooth finish.

March came in like a lion on the 1st with a snowstorm in Haldimand County, about 15 centimeters of snow, and the first snow day for school kids.... so, we were glad that this big job was done.

Cindy Egg Farmerette

CLICK HEREto read more about Cindy's experience transitioning from a conventional to an enriched layer barn.
Published in Blog
There are some types of E. coli (known as avian pathogenic E. coli [APEC]) that can cause serious or fatal colibacillosis infection in chickens. Many factors predispose birds to the infections.
Published in Layers
As the Canadian egg industry phases out conventional cages, most farmers will decide to install free-run or enriched cage housing. For its part, poultry housing maker Big Dutchman is presently seeing a 50/50 split on its Canadian sales of the two housing types, but sales lead Ron Wardrop says he’s recently seeing a little more interest from producers in enriched cages.
Published in Eggs - Layers
The updated National Farm Animal Care Council code of practice for laying hens contains many specifications for foraging, perches and nests – enrichments that allow the hens to engage in natural behaviours. These enhancements vary to some degree among housing providers. Here’s what some of them offer and why.
Published in Eggs - Layers
Poor skeletal health in commercial laying hens was first documented as a production issue in the 1950s. It became an animal welfare concern in the 1980s, when scientists first documented a high prevalence of bone fractures after handling hens at end of lay.
Published in Layers
Feather pecking is not an act of aggression but repetitive pecking that is thought to be a result of stress, according to Dr. Krysta Morrissey, a postdoctoral researcher with the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph. “It can cause pain and injury and is an animal welfare concern.”
Published in Eggs - Layers
France will ban eggs laid by battery cage hens and sold in supermarkets by 2022, the agriculture minister confirmed this week, however the ban will not apply to ingredient eggs used in processed products. | READ MORE
Published in News
Animal Health Australia has received more than 100,000 submissions on draft national poultry guidelines, and cage eggs was one of the most contentious.

The draft Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines for poultry will replace the 15-year-old voluntary regulations. The guidelines cover all aspects of poultry farming but cage eggs are a focus, with about 11 million hens housed in cages in Australia – more than half of all laying hens.

Animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA and Animals Australia want cages phased out and ultimately banned. They say battery cages are cruel and severely restrict movement, leading to bone and muscle weakness, and distress.

But the chief executive of Egg Farmers of Australia, John Dunn, said the “radical suggestion” of a ban or phase-out of cages would lead to massive loss of production and increase the price of eggs. He said 56 per cent of egg production in Australia involved cages and the industry “can’t just turn that off”. For the full story, click here.
Published in News
As the due date approaches for the transition from conventional cages to either fully enriched or cage-free layer systems, we will discuss the differences between these systems. We also will explore the other question many farms are facing: build a new barn or retrofit an existing structure. Join us as we share on these important topics, and respond to your questions.
Published in Webinars
My fifth blog starts off at the New Year.

Christmas gives those of us in agriculture time to enjoy faith, family, friends and farm. As holiday festivities took over between Christmas and New Year’s, we had minimal time to make any progress.

Many businesses have limited holiday hours, and employees take time away from their jobs, including our construction crew. It ended up being too cold to work anyway.

But we continued to care for our hens 24/7. Our kids, Charlotte and John, returned home for the holidays and they helped out as well.

Back to our new enriched housing project.

Last April, we met with Harold Meadows of Clark Ag Systems. Together, we decided to go with the Farmer Automatic Enriched Colony Housing system for our new layer barn.

At that time, you must decide on a date to have the equipment arrive at your farm.

It comes from Laer, Germany packed in Maersk containers, travels by ship to Montreal, by rail car to Brampton, Ont. and then goes through customs. Finally, it arrives at your farm via transport truck.

We had originally (optimistically and probably naively!) picked a delivery date in December, but later changed that to January 2nd.

In November, we realized that we would not need the layer housing equipment until perhaps February and wanted to postpone the date.

This was impossible. The company in Germany is very organized in filling the order and the container had already been loaded and was en route on the high seas.

Rarely are they wrong about timing, unless Mother Nature interferes!

We received one day’s grace and the first container arrived January 3rd.

Of course, this turned out to be one of the deep freeze weeks, with temperatures plummeting below -18°C.

Our loader tractor was first used to take each box, which sits on a pallet, to flatbed trailers that Nick had arranged to temporarily put the various packages on.

The loader tractor was having trouble working, and we started using the “Gradall” machine that B. Jorna Construction had on site to move lumber, etc. for the construction tasks.

The second container arrived in the late afternoon.



Between loads, the Masterfeeds truck brought feed and Nick came in for a break. I told him he was talking funny and asked him what was the matter. He said, “My face is frozen!” A hot chocolate helped to warm him up so he could smile again.

Charlotte and John cleared out what will be the new cooler in order to make a temporary holding place for all of the parts. This also gave the equipment a place to be protected from winter weather.

The various skids then got moved on January 4th to the cooler area.

The week of January 8th brought many visual advances: the Tile Red steel getting put on the east and west sides; insulation and white plastic was put on pack room walls; the scissor lift arrived to be used for high jobs; a vapour barrier was put on the barn ceiling below trusses and walls; and hurricane clips installed (did you know that each clip can withstand 1,100 pounds of uplift pressure?).

Our daughter Nicole helped install them – at least eight nails each on the base of the barn, lots of squats and no blue fingers when she was done.

During the rest of the month, insulation was placed on all walls, white vinyl planking was installed everywhere except the cooler and three to five lighting rows were installed.

As I write this blog, the facia, soffit and some electrical are in the works.

With insulation and walls of the large main barn almost completed, we moved all of the skids and boxes of housing equipment from the cooler to the back of said barn.

This was done on a warm, sunny day before snow returned near the end of January. The cooler still needs to be insulated, and its walls finished.

I repeat a previous comment that the animal care and egg gathering must still be carried out in the old barn.

Additionally, yearend arrived and this brings extra bookwork. I got a good start on the last quarter at the beginning of December, but then had to finish in January. I also am keeping track of the new barn costs separately for our own records.

I finished this on January 22nd and filed my HST rebate at 2:50 pm. This filing included the many barn build expenses thus far and was, of course, more work for me in a quarter than ever before. Our rebate was $17,000-plus higher than our usual filing with Revenue Canada.

We were having afternoon break and at 3:20 a Canada Revenue HST office employee called to inquire about the large jump in our rebate filing.

I explained what we were doing, and I believe initially he would have wanted me to forward some proof to him of our venture.

However, I also told him about the coming changes in the egg industry with respect to the deletion of conventional housing by 2035.

I told him he could read about what we were doing in my blog! He was very interested and was going to check it out. No further documentation was required of me. Yippee!

So, with Jack Frost nipping at our noses, we hope February sees less of Old Man Winter – not holding my chilly breath!

CLICK HERE to read more about Cindy's experience transitioning from a conventional to an enriched layer barn.
Published in Blog
On page 3, we profiled three Canadian egg producers who made the transition from conventional to new housing systems. Glen Jennings of Nova Scotia transitioned to an enriched cage system, Charles-Éric Bouchard converted to a free-run system and Scott Janzen of British Columbia chose a free-range system. Here are their tips on how to make the move  away from conventional housing smoother.
Published in Eggs - Layers
In September 2014, A&W Foodservices of Canada announced itself as the first national quick service restaurant chain in North America to serve eggs from hens fed a vegetarian diet. A month later, the chain became the first in North America to serve chicken Raised Without the use of Antibiotics (RWA). In terms of the response to the chicken and egg campaigns, Susan Senecal, the chain’s chief marketing officer at the time and now president and chief operating officer, stated in late 2014 that, “Canadians are voting with their stomachs and the response has been fabulous.”
Published in Companies
Most animal welfare studies relating to laying hens has focused on adult birds. However, with the alternative housing systems recommended by the new code of practice, researchers are now interested in the pullet rearing environment and how it can affect adults. Studies have found that the conditions chicks and pullets are exposed to early in life can have lifelong effects on the behaviour, health and welfare of laying hens.
Published in Bird Management
In March of this year, the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) released its new code of practice for layers. The code calls for producers to phase out conventional cage systems over the next 15 years. For many producers, this will mean big change at the farm level. In preparation, Canadian Poultry has gathered the stories of three Canadian egg producers who’ve already made the transition.
Published in Producers
Blog number three follows what turned out to be a very busy November. I knew things were ramping up when I heard my husband Nick tell a salesman that he “wished there were two of him”.

First, I think I should elaborate on why we chose to convert to an enriched colony system. We looked at free-run and free-range, but our gut is telling us that the consumer will still want to purchase the cheapest eggs available in grocery stores.

Our son works at Food Basics and sees the specialty eggs passed over. Actually, they have to be shipped back as they are on the shelf to the expiry date.

As a family, including our children (all of whom are in their twenties), we decided we did not want to work in an environment where our hens would greet us openly upon entering the barn.

We also think an enriched system will give us more control with respect to animal care, our routine and the amount of time we spend in the barn.

In addition, we would probably have to have a bigger barn for free-run or free-range. That being the case, our present building site would have been compromised by size and perhaps would have had to be moved to a different location on the farm.

We decided to stay with Clark Ag Systems partly because they are only a half-hour away. Being nearby has aided in service calls for repairs to our conventional system.

What’s more, the Farmer Automatic system includes many interesting add-ons. I will discuss these more when we are at the housing installation phase of the build.

A busy month
In the last month, concrete work finally began. We built the forms for the concrete walls in the cooler, packing room and front area of the barn in a few days.

The first cement truck came on November 6th. This was exciting and relieved some stress for both of us, as we could see the barn build finally physically taking shape.

We had to bring in loads of stone. Also, the barn floor had to be levelled and packed with a roller to make a smooth floor for the concrete that would be poured on top in the future.

We used the services of Chris Best to haul in stone, move it, roll it and pack it. They also helped with excavating a new electrical line.

In the week of November 20th, three contractors were working on the same day.

Two were doing the concrete walls. Three were moving stone from the dump pile to a dump truck to the back of the barn site, spreading it on the floor and rolling/packing the stone to make a level floor.

And three men from Jorna Construction had started the preliminary work for building the first wall.

Nick is being the general contractor for the barn build project. He was overseeing all aspects, such as making sure the present water line from the deep well to our existing layer barn was buried beneath the floor, doing drawings for fan placement so the builder made the correct size of opening in the side walls and getting anything else that was needed.

Building a cistern under the cooler was a last minute decision. There was such a large hole under the cooler that it made more sense to use it as a cistern, instead of filling it in with gravel.

In that week, we also had the electricians come and install underground conduit for the electrical service. I think at least 10 truckloads of stone were brought in, and three loads made by the cement truck.

On Wednesday, November 22, the first west framed wall was up, and the size difference of the new barn compared to the present conventionally housed barn is quite impressive.

The opposite east wall was up two days later and we had the weekend to gaze upon all of the week’s efforts.

Saturday, Nick called upon a former worker to help him take down more of the existing pig barn so the carpenter has more working space at the south (far) end.

We are going to hold on to our hats for December, as it looks like we will need good weather to get everything enclosed before winter.

Even with all of this activity, barn chores still must get done. I find myself in the barn alone more, but know it is important for Nick to be present when building work is being done.

I can hear lots of extra banging, vehicles beeping, engines revving and hammering from inside the barn. I do think the chickens are getting used to this!

CLICK HERE to read more about Cindy's experience transitioning from a conventional to an enriched layer barn.
Published in Blog
"U.S. shift to cage-free eggs causing market disruption.” That was the title of an editorial blog published in July by WATT, publisher of WATT Poultry USA magazine. In it, Terrence O’Keefe, content director of agri-business, notes, “It will continue to be a bumpy transition for the cage-free egg market unless major egg purchasers set and stick to interim goals for cage-free egg purchases.”
Published in Eggs - Layers
Since my first article, I’ve come up with my “author” name – Cindy Egg Farmerette. Like it?

This time, I’ll add a little more about our present set up, task sharing and, of course, discuss what we’ve accomplished in the last month for the new site.

As a reminder, this blog is all about our journey from conventional housing to building a new Farmer Automatic enriched housing facility.

My husband Nick and I contribute fairly equally to the present workload for our egg business.

We gather eggs by hand at the front of the barn, with the cooler right beside where we make stacks of trays of eggs and, eventually, the full skid of 60 stacks of eggs.

I do probably 95 per cent of the record keeping, animal care checks and all of the bookkeeping.

I absolutely refuse to do the manure – that’s Nick’s job. With the majority of our equipment being 21 years old, the manure removal apparatus has several quirks that only he knows how to operate.

He monitors the amount of feed to order with the help of our salesman Neill Vroom from Masterfeeds. We’ve stayed with this feed company since the beginning.

I also work one morning a week for a lawyer and “retired” last year from teaching piano one day a week at Dunnville Christian School after doing this for 25 years.

Our two youngest children attend post-secondary schools and help on the weekends that they’re home. Our two oldest moved out in July to Hamilton, Ont. They have full-time jobs and will help when we need them.



In the last month, Nick has had to find workers willing to clear the barn site with him. His hired man was in a motorcycle accident and could not work while he healed.

He found a couple of guys to help for a few days here and there and managed to get everything cleared from the former farrow-to-finish pig barn that we’re converting.

The backhoe operator he had lined up was busy. It seems everyone in the construction industry is busy as well!

He was going through his contacts on his cellphone and remembered that his long-time friend Bill that we visited in the summer showed him the backhoe he had bought.

He asked him if he was interested in picking up some extra work and he agreed. He is a helicopter pilot, former dairy farmer and is sometimes home for weeks at a time.

We caught him when he had just gotten home for a good chunk of time. He started with digging the trench for the new driveway.
Next, he broke concrete into pieces that could be put in the driveway “trench” as a base for the new driveway.

Nick also moved pieces with his loader tractor, managed any helpers and split concrete pieces with a sledgehammer. He also ordered loads of crushed stone for under the concrete floor and for rodent control along foundations.

And Nick hired a bobcat with a jackhammer on the front to break thick concrete into smaller pieces. Lots of this was done in the beautiful stretch of weather that we had, but when the rain came one October day, we got soaked with four inches. Everything just had to sit for a few days!

The concrete contractor was supposed to be here the beginning of October, but we are still waiting for him. This is holding up the start of the actual building. The builder had called two months ago to warn us to order trusses right away, as there is a backlog.

The photos I've included are of the new driveway with concrete pieces and the backhoe and tractor working at the old pig barn site.

I hope you continue to follow along and see what happens in the next month.

CLICK HERE to read more about Cindy's experience transitioning from a conventional to an enriched layer barn.
Published in Blog
November 23, 2017 – Each year, Americans eat an average of 250 eggs, and right now there is a surplus in most parts of the country because of increased production. In California, however, there is a decrease in the number of eggs being laid.

Why? It could be a case of happier hens, new research suggests.

A law in that state titled the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act” (also known as Prop 2) requires all eggs produced in California come from chickens “that are provided enough room to turn around and fully extend their wings”.

Passed in late-2008, it came into effect on January 1, 2015 to allow producers time to transition.

Now, a study shows the regulations have already had a significant impact on hens, farmers and consumers – and not just in California.

It’s all part of new research from Conner Mullally of the University of Florida and Jayson Lusk of Purdue University titled “The Impact of Farm Animal Housing Restrictions on Egg Prices, Consumer Welfare, and Production in California.”

“You can change the animal welfare and the treatment of animals but it’s not going to be free,” Mullally says of the study results, which were recently published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

“We were able to look at how much people paid for a dozen eggs compared to some cities outside of California thanks to grocery store data.”

For the study, the researchers looked at 16 years of monthly data on egg production and input prices.

They found that by July 2016, both egg production and the number of egg-laying hens was about 35 per cent lower than they would have been in the absence of the new regulations.

Out-of-state eggs were able to compensate for falling California production until around the time the new rules were implemented, at which point imports of eggs into California fell.

For consumers, the study found that the average price paid per dozen eggs was about 22 per cent higher from December 2014 through September 2016 than it would have been in the absence of the hen housing restrictions.

The price impact fell over time, from an initial impact of about 33 per cent per dozen to about 9 per cent over the last six months of the observed time horizon.

These price increases correspond to welfare losses of at least $117 million for the three California markets over the observed time horizon.

The results suggest that because of the policy change, California consumers can expect to experience annual welfare losses of at least $25 million in future years from higher retail egg prices alone.
Published in Eggs - Layers
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