Cannibalism, Gentle Feather Pecking in Laying Hens
Feather pecking may vary pecking to plucking the feathers to subordinate birds. Feather pecking and feather damaged are more severe in hen housed in cages than in floor systems.
Birds with damaged feathers have poor thermoregulation and greater energy demands than unaffected birds. Today, cannibalism is more common in modern brown hybrids than in white layer lines. Recent studies have demonstrated genetic links between feather pecking and feather pigmentation.
As crude protein level of the diet is reduced, regardless of amino acid supply, there is also increase in mortality (cannibalism) and reduced feather score.. The feathering of white and especially brown eggs birds is adversely affected by low protein diets (lower score)
Observed Clinical Signs Happenings
- Increase flock mobility or activity
- Feather pecking is a behaviour expressed by dominant birds at subordinates
- Feather pecking may vary from pecking to plucking the feathers of subordinate birds.
- Feather pulling of subordinate birds
- Feather pecking of subordinate birds
- Feather eating
- Mediterranean class hen’s strains have been much more prone to cannibalism pecking than the heavier breeds of American and Asiatic classes
- Today, cannibalism is more common in the modern brown hybrids than the white layer lines
- Feather pecking and cannibalism tend to reoccur and it is suggested that it may be a learned behaviour
- Other factors, such as body weight and/or acquired behaviour in pullets, are likely to be major variables in the induction of cannibalism in barn egg production systems.
- Poor feather condition
- Poor feather cover or feather loss
- Feather pulling
- Feather pecking
- Feather eating
Diet or Feed Changes
- Diet (nutritional deficiencies) or feed form are one of the complex multifactorial behavioural predisposing factors
Cannibalism, Gentle Feather Pecking in Laying Hens DOES NOT exhibit or manifest any of the following clinical signs happenings:
- Egg drop
- Mortality above the standard
- Visibly sick birds
- Decreased flock mobility or activity
- Droppings abnormalities
- Respiratory abnormalities
- Neurological Nervous
- Lameness or unusual movements, incoordination, ataxia
- Eyes abnormalities
- Head, Comb, Wattles, Face, Nostrils, Sinuses, Mount, Beak, Earlobes, abnormalities (except eyes)
- Body Parts (Neck, wings, breast, abdomen, shanks, legs, hocks, feet, joints, vent, and skin, abnormalities), skinny body, retarded growth, weight depression
- Feed Consumption Changes
- Shell quality defects
- Internal Egg defects
- Causing Agents
- A complex multifactorial behavioural problem. Predisposing factors included overcrowding excessive light intensity or variation (e.g. trough shafts of light in the house or shed, high temperatures, nutritional deficiencies, feed form, boredom, and strain of bird. Today, cannibalism is more common in modern brown hybrids than in white layer lines. Recent studies have demonstrated genetic links between feather pecking and feather pigmentation. Adequate husbandry. Rule out the factors such as: colony size, stocking density, nutrition and light regimen. In free-range and barn laying flocks, where pecking can be more of a problem, it is standard practice to use 0.18-0.20% sodium in the ration while for cage birds .014% is adequate. The higher level does not prevent pecking completely but it reduces the susceptibility of the flock to developing the vice, which is usually triggered by management factors.
- Affected Systems/Organs
- Integumentary system. Skin, Feathers
- Mainly Affects
- Performance and Egg production may affected
- Adequate husbandry. Rule out the factors such as: colony size, stocking density, nutrition and light regimen. In free-range and barn laying flocks, where pecking can be more of a problem, it is standard practice to use 0.18-0.20% sodium in the ration while for cage birds .014% is adequate. The higher level does not prevent pecking completely but it reduce the susceptibility of the flock to developing the vice, which is usually triggered by management factors.
- Suggested Actions
- Can be dealt with in house
- Technical assistance recommended
- Can be managed with feed additives, off-the-shelf medications
- Veterinary intervention is recommended
Impact on Egg quality
Impact on Liveability
Impact on Production
Overall Economic Impact
Y.M. Saif.2008.Disease of Poultry. 12th Edition. page 1149
David E. Swayne. 2013. Diseases of Poultry 13th Edition. page 1233
Mark Pattison, Paul F. McMullin, Janet M. Bradbury. Dennis J. Alexander. 2008. Poultry Diseases. 6th Edition. page 97, 545
Steven Leeson, John D. Summers. 2008. Commercial Poultry Nutrition. Third Edition. page 173
Donald D. Bell, Williams D. Weaver. 2009. Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production. Fifth Edition.