One of the most challenging issues in commercial egg production is Injurious Pecking (IP), which is identified by the pecking or pulling of the feathers or flesh of another flock member. This can cause distress, feather loss or even death. Currently, beak trimming (BT) is a widespread practice to help reduce damage. As IP is thought to develop from thwarted foraging, one approach to managing it is to improve or ‘enrich’ the birds’ environment by providing a long-lasting environment enrichment with the added benefit of blunting the bird’s beak naturally. This study investigated the effect of provision of pecking pans during rear on feather cover, injurious pecking behaviour and beak lengths, also examining breed influences. Sixteen commercial flocks were used: British Blacktail (n=8), Lohmann Brown (n=6) and Bovans Brown (n=2). Flock size ranged from 3,300 – 11,000 (mean 6,843). Half of the 16 flocks were beak trimmed (BT) at day old at the hatchery and the other half were intact beak flocks. Pecking pans were supplied by 6 weeks of age to 4 BT and 4 intact beak flocks to give a 4x4 experimental design. This study demonstrated that pecking pans for chicks/pullets may provide an environmental enrichment with the potential of blunting the bird’s beak naturally through normal levels of wear at approximately 10/11 weeks of age. Levels of IP were low and did not vary significantly with age, breed or presence of the pan. A reduction of plumage damage in some body areas such as tail and wing was seen at 14-15 weeks of age in flocks with access to pecking pans. Furthermore, results indicate genotypic variation in beak characteristics, which gives scope for selecting for genotypes with less damaging beaks.
|Date of Award||25 Sep 2018|
- The University of Bristol
|Supervisor||Claire Weeks (Supervisor) & Andrew Butterworth (Supervisor)|