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Dr. Ferry Leenstra
Wageningen UR Livestock Research
Postbus 65
8200 AB Lelystad
The Netherlands
Tel. + 31 320 238517
Fax + 31 320 238050


Laying hen performance in free range and organic systems reviewed

Laying hens in modern poultry systems have increasingly been bred for confinement and controlled climatic conditions. Researchers from the LowInputBreeds project in Switzerland, France and The Netherlands have looked at the performance of various commercial laying hen genotypes in free range and organic farms.


What they found was that farmers and consumers had regional preferences for both bird plumage coloration and color of eggs produced. These differences reflected preferences found in production throughout each of the countries. Available commercial genotypes performed more poorly in organic production systems, showing higher mortality and lower egg production. No genotype was preferred for free range farming systems. White hens performed better than brown hens, with silver hens having the lowest performance. While smaller flocks could produce as much as the larger flocks on average, smaller flocks had greater variability. The research supports the need to select and develop breeds specifically for free range and organic farming systems.

More information


Feenstra, F., Maurer, V., Bestman, M., van Sambeek, F., Zeltner, E., Reuvekamp, B., Galea, F., and van Niekerk, T. 2012. Performance of commercial laying hen genotypes on free range and organic farms in Switzerland, France and The Netherlands. British Poultry Science 53: 282-290.


Ferry Leenstra, Wageningen UR