Controlling Feather Pecking and Cannibalism in Egg Laying Flocks
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© 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Globally, feather pecking and cannibalism create economic challenges for the producer and welfare challenges to poultry. Cannibalism may be an unfortunate side effect of uncontrolled feather pecking rather than a result of an aggressive encounter. Two primary types of feather pecking (gentle feather pecking and severe feather pecking) have been characterized in the scientific literature, both of which differ from aggressive pecking. Individual variations in brain morphology, stress responsivity, and genetics influence the development and perseverance of feather pecking. However, providing a consistent supply of quality litter, giving hens adequate access to perches, providing mashed food and nipple drinkers, and ensuring environmentally stable temperature, lighting, and air quality conditions may safeguard against the development of feather pecking. Once feather pecking begins, this behavior can be difficult to stop, so increasing our understanding of hen perception will identify strategies to prevent the development of this detrimental behavior.
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