This study investigated the protective effects of an on-farm management package designed to reduce injurious pecking (IP) in loose-housed laying hens. A systematic review of scientific literature generated 46 potentially protective management strategies. Bespoke management packages were designed for treatment flocks (TF) using these management strategies. IP in 53 TFs was compared with IP in 47 control flocks (CF) where the management package was not employed. Scoring of plumage damage (PD) and observations of gentle and severe feather pecking (GFP; SFP), and vent and cannibalistic pecking (VP) were completed, and management strategy use was recorded, at 20, 30 and 40 weeks of age. Differences between treatment and CF were examined using multilevel modelling. Compared with CF, TF employed more management strategies (P<0.001), had lower PD (P=0.003) and SFP (P=0.019). Regardless of treatment or control flock status, the more of the 46 management strategies that were employed the lower was the PD (P=0.004), GFP (P=0.021), SFP (P=0.043), mortality at 40 weeks (P=0.025), and the likelihood of VP (P=0.021). Therefore, the provision of a bespoke management package was protective against the majority of forms of IP in commercial laying hen flocks.
- Farm animals
- Accepted January 14, 2013.
- British Veterinary Association