7 7 LOHMANN TIERZUCHT › MANAGEMENT GUIDE Free range systems Free range defines itself as a system where the hens have access to out- door spaces. Internally both floor and aviary sys- tems can be adopted. However, you must provide access ar- eas often called pop holes which allow the birds freedom to roam outdoors during daylight hours. Dependent on local legislation, the access times, distance to the pop holes, size of the pop holes and allocated area per bird externally will be heavily regulated. While commercially free range sys- tems may bring their own advantag- es, they do bring with them their own management challenges alongside in- creased disease and bio security risks. The fundamentals of rearing and production remain the same for alternative as they do in conventional housing, however we need to remember that there are subtle differences that need to be considered. Hens are destined to jump, perch and climb to access food water and nest boxes. They should be exposed to this from an early age. Studies have shown that access to perching by four weeks of age can reduce the risk of aggressive pecking later in the production cycle. Birds kept in alternative systems spend a lot of time on the floor or outside which allows negative foraging to occur. They need to be trained to eat effectively. Hens have increased exposure to external pressures and challenges. Having a healthy metabolism and good frame development is essen- tial.