Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Feather pecking of laying hens due to the keeping conditions

In order to test whether provision of foraging material and perch height have significant effects on feather pecking and feather damage in laying hens, 16 groups of 14 hens (white, Lohman Selected Leghorn’ hybrids) were kept in experimental pens from week 19 to 30 of age. There were eight pens each with or without polystyrene blocks as foraging material and eight pens each with high or low perches (70 cm or 45 cm above floor level). Each of the four combinations of factors was assigned to four pens and statistical significance of the effects of the two factors was assessed using a two-way analysis of variance.<br>There was an increase in the rate of feather pecking interactions over time, and feather pecking was significantly more frequent in pens without than with foraging material. In addition, damage to the feathers of the lower body parts was significantly greater in hens kept in pens with low than with high perches.<br>Based on the results of this study, housing systems for laying hens should contain adequate foraging material as well as high perches to avoid welfare relevant problems with feather pecking and feather damage.

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