Impact of feeding management on feather pecking in laying hens

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In the near future EU-legislation will ban the use of conventional battery cages, while national legislation in some countries in Western Europe will ban beak trimming as well. The ban on battery cages and beak trimming causes an increased risk of feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens. Many factors influence feather pecking behaviour, but this paper focuses on nutritional factors. Nutritional factors can have positive and negative effects on feather pecking behaviour in laying hens. Severe feather pecking has been demonstrated in birds that were fed a too low mineral level in the diet, a too low protein level or a too low amino acid level (methionine, arginine). Sometimes somewhat more feather pecking was found when layers were fed diets with mainly vegetable protein sources as compared with diets with protein from animal origin. Also more feather pecking may occur when the diets were fed restrictedly, fed coarsely ground, or fed as pellets. Feeding high-fibre diets, low energy diets, or roughages reduced feather pecking. Providing additional grain or straw in the litter during rearing could result in lower levels of feather pecking behaviour in adult stages. Some of these positive effects on feather pecking seem to be related to the time birds spend on feed intake and foraging. This paper gives an overview of the relationships between the occurrence of feather pecking behaviour and nutritional factors, such as diet composition and feeding strategies in laying hens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-686
JournalWorlds Poultry Science Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • dietary-protein source
  • different housing systems
  • open-field response
  • 2 different ages
  • plumage condition
  • egg-production
  • broiler-chickens
  • light-intensity
  • growing bantams
  • layer pullets

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