CZAAWE Resource Article

Applying chemical stimuli on feathers to reduce feather pecking in laying hens
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
2011
Publication/Journal 
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
ISBN 
0168-1591
Abstract 
Recent studies have shown that spraying a distasteful substance (quinine) on a bird's feather cover reduced short-term feather pecking. The present experiment evaluated if other substances offer similar or better protection against feather pecking. One hundred and twenty birds were divided into 12 groups of 10 birds each. Over a period of 10 days the birds' response to 10 feathers coated with one of the 11 distasteful substances was observed and recorded. Feathers were soaked in a 1% garlic solution, 1% almond oil, 1% clove oil, 1% clove solution, quinine sulphate solution in four concentrations (0.1%, 1%, 2%, 4%), 0.6 mol magnesium chloride solution, anti-peck spray or an angostura solution. The control group received uncoated feathers. The number of feathers plucked, rejected or eaten was counted 60 min after presenting the feathers. All substances reduced feather plucking (p < 0.0001) and consumption (p < 0.0001) significantly, compared to uncoated feathers. Quinine concentrations of 2% and 4% were most effective. This study was the first to investigate the aversive potential of different substances to deter feather peckers from the feathers of other birds. The findings may be useful in the development of spraying devices to prevent feather pecking when other management tools fail.