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Predictors for plumage damage and bloody lesions indicative of feather pecking in pullets reared in aviaries

By Caroline Mels, Knut Niebuhr, Andreas Futschik, Jean-Loup Rault, Susanne Waiblinger

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Abstract

Feather pecking remains a serious problem in poultry farming. This study aimed to identify risk factors for plumage damage as a proxy for feather pecking, and the predictive value of practical animal-based parameters. Data were collected in 100 flocks on 28 rearing farms in Austria, recording plumage damage in the 10th and bloody lesions in the 6th, 10th and 16th weeks of age; housing (e.g. pre-rearing on another farm, early rearing on the floor or aviary), management (e.g. provision of litter) and human-animal relationship (e.g. avoidance distance, farmers’ attitudes). Linear mixed models were calculated for plumage damage and generalized linear models for bloody lesions in the 10th week. Early floor-rearing of pullets with access to litter, instead of confinement in the aviary in the first weeks without access to litter, was associated with less plumage damage (P = 0.011). A shorter pre-rearing period on a different farm was associated with less plumage damage (P = 0.035). In organic flocks, bloody lesions tended to occur with a nearly three times lower probability with early floor-rearing than early aviary-rearing (P = 0.062) and when litter quantity in the 10th week was scored as high (P 

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 250
Pages 105607
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2022.105607
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Human-animal relationships
  3. rearing
  4. risk factors