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Major report on laying hen feather cover published

picture of laying hens

A MAJOR new piece of research that offers farmers strategies for reducing injurious feather pecking in laying hens has been published.

The report is the result of more than two years’ research on 29 poultry farms representative of the UK’s laying hen sector.

See also: UK not ready for beak treatment ban

Of the 29 flocks, 27 flocks had been beak treated by infra-red technology at day old at the hatchery, and the other two flocks were intact beak flocks.

It was funded by Defra through the European Innovation Partnership and explores ways of improving flock management, reducing injurious pecking and enhancing bird welfare.

The work, which the Laying Hen Welfare Forum (LHWF) coordinated, saw researchers using Motivational Interviewing to support farmers in making changes to management.

Ownership

Producers were encouraged to take ownership of maintaining feather cover by creating bespoke plans for their farms.

A diverse uptake of actions was seen: range enhancements; planting trees; artificial shelters; providing an array of enrichments inside the house.

Up to nine actions were planned in producers’ plans, with an average of three on free range farms.

High level of response

Mark Williams, LHWF secretary, said: “We were delighted to see the high level of response from producers in implementing new ideas.”

He explained that some changes were inexpensive, such as providing rope, plastic objects, or balls in the poultry house.

But others involved substantial investment, like verandas or time-consuming activities such as planting trees, renewing and strategically placing artificial shelters to encourage ranging, continually replenishing Lucerne, or removing capped litter.

Step forward

Andrew Joret, chairman of the LHWF, said: “We believe that this project is a major step forward in the prevention of injurious feather pecking and we would like to thank everyone involved in it.

“Without their support, this would not have been possible. We now have some very robust data which we believe will be of great value to producers.”

The full report, which we will be looking at in more detail, is available to download here.