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The prevention and control of feather pecking in laying hens: identifying the underlying principles

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2013

T.B. RODENBURG*
Affiliation:
Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands Behavioural Ecology Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
M.M. VAN KRIMPEN
Affiliation:
Livestock Research, Wageningen UR, PO Box 65, 8200 AB, Lelystad, The Netherlands
I.C. DE JONG
Affiliation:
Livestock Research, Wageningen UR, PO Box 65, 8200 AB, Lelystad, The Netherlands
E.N. DE HAAS
Affiliation:
Adaptation Physiology Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
M.S. KOPS
Affiliation:
Department of Psychopharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS) and Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.082, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands
B.J. RIEDSTRA
Affiliation:
Behavioural Biology, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 7, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands
R.E. NORDQUIST
Affiliation:
Emotion & Cognition Group, Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 7, 3584 CL Utrecht, The Netherlands
J.P. WAGENAAR
Affiliation:
Louis Bolk Institute, Hoofdstraat 24, 3972 LA Driebergen, The Netherlands
M. BESTMAN
Affiliation:
Louis Bolk Institute, Hoofdstraat 24, 3972 LA Driebergen, The Netherlands
C.J. NICOL
Affiliation:
Animal Welfare & Behaviour, School of Veterinary Sciences, Bristol University, Langford House, Langford, Bristol, BS40 5DU, United Kingdom
*
Corresponding author: bas.rodenburg@wur.nl
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Abstract

Feather pecking (FP) in laying hens remains an important economic and welfare issue. This paper reviews the literature on causes of FP in laying hens. With the ban on conventional cages in the EU from 2012 and the expected future ban on beak trimming in many European countries, addressing this welfare issue has become more pressing than ever. The aim of this review paper is to provide a detailed overview of underlying principles of FP. FP is affected by many different factors and any approach to prevent or reduce FP in commercial flocks should acknowledge that fact and use a multifactorial approach to address this issue. Two forms of FP can be distinguished: gentle FP and severe FP. Severe FP causes the most welfare issues in commercial flocks. Severe FP is clearly related to feeding and foraging behaviour and its development seems to be enhanced in conditions where birds have difficulty in coping with environmental stressors. Stimulating feeding and foraging behaviour by providing high-fibre diets and suitable litter from an early age onwards, and controlling fear and stress levels through genetic selection, reducing maternal stress and improving the stockmanship skills of the farmer, together offer the best prospect for preventing or controlling FP.

Type
Review Article
Copyright
Copyright © World's Poultry Science Association 2013

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