Laying Hen welfare forum

The LHWF has completed a 2 year study into feather pecking and now Paula Baker and Claire Weeks have produced a comprehensive report on the findings.

Initial measurements of mortality gave the following results:-

System:

40 wks avge. Mortality:

70 wks avge. Mortality:

All systems

1.84%

6.46%

Enriched colony

1.83%

4.80%

Barn

1.51%

7.0%

Free Range

1.74%

6.48%

Organic

2.44%

7.2%

 

Feather loss scores overall (0 = good, 2 = poor)

System:

40 wks avge. Mortality:

70 wks avge. Mortality:

All systems

0.22

0.94

Enriched colony

0.25

1.17

Barn

0.13

0.83

Free Range

0.21

0.91

Organic

0.26

0.96

 

93% of the flocks had been beak trimmed by infra-red at day old at the hatchery, and 7% had intact beaks. Interestingly, the organic birds did not have intact beaks.

The most popular methods used to prevent feather pecking were range enhancement, foraging enrichments, and lighting adjustments.

Of objects provided to prevent pecking, the most frequently used were yellow or black drums or buckets, red bell drinkers, balls, grit in plastic bottles, straw bales and lucerne bales.

Costs of providing these objects varied from £20/1,000 birds for hard plastic objects, to over £100/1,000 birds for straw or lucerne bales.

60% of the farms scattered grit to work the litter and keep it friable.

31% removed capped litter when it appeared and replaced fresh substitute, and a further 27% removed capped litter but did not add fresh.

22% of the farms had a “winter garden” attached and these reported consistently good litter inside the house.

The authors recommend further research on LED lighting, breed propensity to feather peck, smother and laying floor eggs, and synchronicity of rearing and laying periods.

The full paper can be seen by reference to the Laying Hen Welfare Forum website.