Risk factors for feather pecking

Injurious pecking is affected by many factors and there is no single, prescriptive cure to prevent it from occurring. A proactive approach, using multiple management strategies has been shown to be most effective. Injurious pecking is primarily a redirected foraging behaviour and can develop when the birds do not have a balanced diet or sufficient opportunities in their surroundings to satisfy normal feeding and foraging behaviour. The development of injurious pecking seems to be enhanced in conditions where the birds have difficulty in coping with environmental stressors. Different commercial hybrids cope differently to fear and stress. Therefore the genetics of the bird can predispose them to be at a higher risk of injurious pecking.

Good stockmanship is key to preventing injurious pecking. Satisfying the birds dietary needs, stimulating appropriate feeding and foraging behaviour and managing fear and stress levels collectively offer the best approach for preventing and controlling injurious pecking on farm. Some key areas to focus on are highlighted below. Click on the links for more detail on how to implement key actions:

Matching environments Give immediate access to litter

Match environments between rear and lay

Give immediate access to litter

Promote early access to the range Encourage range use

Promote early access to the range

Encourage range use

Minimise dietary changes Use mash feed

Minimise dietary changes

Use mash feed

Promote foraging behaviour Avoid calling hens in from the range

Promote foraging behaviour

Avoid calling hens in from the range

Maintain a consistent housing environment Maintain litter quality

Maintain a consistent housing environment

Maintain litter quality

Create a robust flock Actively maintain health and reduce fear and stress

Create a robust flock

Actively maintain health and reduce fear and stress

Making improvements

FeatherWel - improving feather cover AssureWel - improving feather cover Defra guide

FeatherWel management guide
[pdf, 5.49mb]

AssureWel advice guide
[pdf, 661kb]

Defra feather pecking guide
[pdf, 503kb]

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