A non-intrusive method of assessing plumage condition in commercial flocks of laying hens

Standard techniques for assessing plumage damage to hens from feather pecking typically require capture and handling. Handling of individual birds for plumage assessment is relatively easy in experimental studies; however, close inspection of individual birds in commercial flocks is less feasible because catching birds is difficult, may compromise bird welfare and affect egg production. The […]

The effect of dark brooders on feather pecking on commercial farms

Commercial laying hen chicks experience continuous light for up to 24 h/day in the first week of life. Under these conditions, active chicks disturb, and may direct feather pecks towards resting ones. Previous experimental work with small groups showed that both problems were reduced in chicks brooded by dark brooders (heaters). The current study aimed […]

Plumage damage in free-range laying hens: Behavioural characteristics in the rearing period and the effects of environmental enrichment and beak-trimming

Severe feather-pecking, whereby birds peck at and pull out the feathers of other birds, is one of the greatest welfare concerns and the most prevalent behavioural problem in laying hens. It can be extremely difficult to control, especially in non-cage laying flocks. Despite a multitude of studies on the topic, the principal underlying causes remain […]

Tree cover and injurious feather-pecking in commercial flocks of free-range laying hens: a follow up

Injurious feather-pecking in non-cage systems is a serious economic and welfare concern for the egg-producing industry. This study presents results from data of over 1,000 flocks from producers who supplied free-range eggs to McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd UK between 2008 and 2013. These producers had a minimum 5% of the outdoor range planted in trees. We […]