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Feather Pecking and Cannibalism in Non-Beak-Trimmed Laying Hen Flocks—Farmers' Perspectives

By Eija Kaukonen, Anna Valros

Category Journal Articles

Pecking-related problems are common in intensive egg production, compromising hen welfare, causing farmers economic losses and negatively affecting sustainability. These problems are often controlled by beak trimming, which in Finland is prohibited. An online questionnaire aimed to collect information from farmers about pecking-related problems in Finnish laying hen flocks, important risk factors and the best experiences to prevent the problems. Additionally, the farmers’ attitudes towards beak trimming were examined. We received 35 responses, which represents about 13% of all Finnish laying hen farms with ≥300 laying hens. The majority of respondents stated that a maximum of 5–7% incidence of feather pecking or 1–2% incidence of cannibalism would be tolerable. The majority of respondents (74%) expressed that they would definitely not use beak-trimmed hens. Only two respondents indicated that they would probably use beak-trimmed hens were the practice permitted. Among risk factors, light intensity earned the highest mean (6.3), on a scale from 1 (not important) to 7 (extremely important). Other important problems included those that occurred during rearing, feeding, flock management and problems with drinking water equipment (mean 5.9, each). The most important intervention measures included optimal lighting and feeding, flock management, and removing the pecker and victim. Concluding, Finnish farmers had strong negative attitudes towards beak trimming. The study underlines the importance of flock management, especially lighting and feeding, in preventing pecking problems and indicates that it is possible to incorporate a non-beak-trimming policy into sustainable egg production.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Animals
Volume 9
Issue 2
Pages 17
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ani9020043
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Birds
  3. Chickens
  4. Farm animals
  5. Food animals
  6. open access
  7. pecking
  1. open access