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New website will help farmers ensure hens maintain good feather cover
Date:7/17/2013

Hen pecking is a serious animal welfare concern and can cause great economic losses for the farmer and the egg-production industry as a whole. A new website has been launched to help make sure laying hens are well-feathered throughout their lives.

The website [http://www.featherwel.org] has been developed by scientists at the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences to improve bird welfare through FeatherWel, a project led by the University and supported by the Tubney Charitable Trust.

The Bristol team have collaborated on the FeatherWel website with RSPCA Freedom Food, The Soil Association and the AssureWel project.

The website, endorsed by the poultry industry, focuses on management strategies to help prevent pecking damage occurring from day old chicks through rear onto transfer to the laying house and throughout lay and provides photographic examples, links and further information.

All forms of injurious pecking, including gentle and severe feather pecking, vent pecking and cannibalism are described. In addition, there is a forum where farmers can share their experiences in managing flocks.

Dr Claire Weeks, Senior Research Fellow in Animal Welfare at the School of Veterinary Sciences, who led the project, said: "When it comes to abnormal pecking behaviour, most farmers are well aware that prevention is easier than cure. A trial of the advice in the management package on 100 farms as part of the Bristol Pecking Project found that using as many management strategies together as possible was the most effective way of achieving a fully-feathered flock."

Hens mainly lose feathers through other birds pecking at them: an abnormal redirected foraging behaviour. The most common reasons for this are poor litter quality and limited foraging opportunities. Aimed principally at free-range systems, the website also emphasises the importance of prov
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Contact: Joanne Fryer
joanne.fryer@bristol.ac.uk
44-011-733-17276
University of Bristol
Source:Eurekalert

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