48th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology. 28th July- 1st of August, 2014, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Can a bespoke management package reduce the risk of injurious pecking occurring in flocks of intact-beaked laying hens? Walton, JL et al.
Injurious pecking (IP) in laying hens remains an important welfare and economic problem. It is common practice in most countries to beak trim the birds to reduce the impact of IP. However, this practice has been associated with both acute and chronic pain and is considered a mutilation in the EU. Beak trimming is also not a panacea for IP, since the behaviour is still evident in beak-trimmed flocks. Consequently, alongside other European countries, the UK is considering a ban on beak trimming. To inform this decision 20 commercial flocks of intact-beak birds were recruited for a study designed to establish whether such flocks could be kept with good welfare outcomes. Flock sizes ranged from 1200-16000 birds, and the majority of farmers had not previously kept intact-beaked birds before. By using and developing strategies found to effective in reducing the risk of IP in beak-trimmed commercial flocks, bespoke management plans were provided to both rearing and laying farmers. This incl uded, but not limited to: strategies which improve litter quality and range use and enrichments to stimulate exploratory and foraging pecking inside and outside the house. Flocks were visited during the rearing period, at 8 weeks, and again during the laying period at 20, 40 and 65 weeks. Data collected include behavioural observations and plumage assessments, and production and mortality data for the study flock and for as many preceding flocks in the same house for which data were available. Acceptable limits for plumage damage and mortality were assigned prior to the start of the study. We will present early data on the ability of farmers using these management strategies to manage intact-beaked flocks.