Changes in substrate access did not affect early feather-pecking behaviour in two strains of laying hen chicks
Feather pecking, commonly found in flocks of laying hens (Gallus gallus), is detrimental to bird welfare. Thought to cause this problem is the normal housing of layers without a floor substrate. Some evidence suggests that early substrate access decreases later feather pecking. However, there has been little research on the immediate effects of a change in substrate availability on bird welfare, although environmental modifications like this are often done when brooding and rearing laying hen chicks. To investigate this, the behavior of two strains of laying hen chicks was recorded for 4 weeks. The study kept the birds on either wire or peat moss for 14 days and then switched half the chicks to the other flooring. Early feather pecking was not significantly different for birds started on peat moss and switched to wire than for birds only on wire (p > .05). Becausemoving chicks from peat moss to wire did not cause additional welfare problems, the study recommends that chicks be kept on a substrate when young as feather-pecking levels are lower and immediate welfare is improved compared with birds kept only on wire.
Journal Title/Title of Proceedings
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science