Cannibalism, Severe Feather Pecking ...

Cannibalism, Severe Feather Pecking in Laying Hens

Cannibalism, Severe Feather Pecking in Laying Hens

Feather pecking is a behaviour expressed by dominant birds at subordinates. Feather pecking may vary from pecking to plucking the feathers of subordinate birds. (1, 2, 3)

Birds with damaged feathers have poor thermoregulation and greater energy demands than unaffected birds. The egg production usually drops in affected laying birds. (1, 2, 3)

If feathers or tissue are severely damaged, haemorrhage may occur, which then attracts even more pecking. The appearance of blood on exposed skin may lead to the death of the bird due to cannibalistic behaviour from the other birds in the flock or the bird has to be culled due to the severity of the injuries. (1, 2, 3)

Mediterranean class have been much more prone to feather peaking than the heavier breeds of American and Asiatic classes (1, 2, 3)

Although feather pecking and feather damaged are more severe in hen housed in cages than in floor systems. (1, 2, 3)

As the crude protein level of the diet is reduced, regardless of amino acid supply, there is also an 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). (5)

Observed Clinical Signs Happenings

Egg Drop

  • Egg production drops gradually
  • The egg production usually drops in affected laying birds.
  • Birds with damaged feathers have poor thermoregulation and greater energy demands than unaffected birds
  • Sometimes the egg drop may not be noticed or measured, especially at the beginning of the event

Visibly sick birds

  • Few visibly sick birds
  • Feathers may be severely damaged
  • Open wound in the skin
  • The appearance of blood on the exposed skin
  • Skin and feathers Hemorrhages

Mortality

  • Low mortality or increases gradually
  • The mortality rate depends on the number of affected birds
  • Injuries are frequently of such severity that death occurs
  • The appearance of blood on the exposed skin may lead to the death of the bird due to cannibalism behaviour from others birds in the flock or the bird has to be culled due to the severity of the injuries

Dead birds      

  • Poor bodily  condition

Flock behaviour

  • If the feathers are severely damaged, hemorrhages may occur, which attracts even more pecking.
  • The appearance of blood on the exposed skin may lead to the death of the bird due to cannibalism behaviour from others birds in the flock or the bird has to be culled due to the severity of the injuries
  • Cannibalistic attacks are usually made by groups of hens on one individual; pecks are usually delivered from behind or from the side of the victim and are delivered in a foraging posture with head and neck lowered.
  • 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

Feathers

  • Poor feather condition
  • Poor feather cover or feather loss
  • Plucking the feathers of subordinate birds
  • Feather pulling
  • Feather pecking
  • Feather eating
  • If the feathers are severely damaged, haemorrhage may occur

Body Parts (Neck wings breast abdomen shanks legs hocks feet joints vent skin)

  • Skin and feathers Hemorrhages
  • The appearance of blood on the exposed skin
  • Open wound in the skin

Diet or Feed Changes

  • Diet (nutritional factor)  or  feed form is one of the complex  multifactorial behavioural  predisposing factors

Cannibalism, Severe Feather Pecking in Laying Hens DOES NOT exhibit or manifest any of the following clinical signs happenings:

  • Egg production declines rapidly
  • High mortality or increases rapidly
  • Dead birds in good bodily condition (“full crop”)
  • Many visibly sick birds
  • Flock Behaviour Pattern: 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)
  • Feed Consumption Changes
  • Shell quality defects
  • Internal Egg defects
Causing Agents
A complex multi-factorial behavioural problem. Predisposing factors include overcrowding, excessive light intensity or variation in environment (e.g. through shafts of light in the house or shed, high temperature, nutritional deficiencies, feed form, boredom, and strain of bird). 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.
Affected Systems/Organs
Integumentary system. Feathers. Skin
Spread
N/A
Mainly Affects
Liveability, Performance and Egg production may affected
Solution
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.
Suggested Actions
  • Can be confirmed with clinical signs and gross lesions
  • Can be dealt with in house
  • Technical assistance recommended
  • Can be managed with feed additives, off-the-shelf medications

Impact on Egg quality

0

Impact on Liveability

1


Impact on Production

1

Overall Economic Impact

1



  1. Y.M. Saif.2008.Disease of Poultry. 12th Edition. Page 1149
  2. David E. Swayne. 2013. Diseases of Poultry 13th Edition. page 1233
  3. Mark Pattison, Paul F. McMullin, Janet M. Bradbury. Dennis J. Alexander. 2008. Poultry Diseases. 6th Edition. page 97, 545
  4. Paul McMullin. 2004. A Pocket Guide to Poultry Health and Disease. First Edition.
  5. Steven Leeson, John D. Summers. 2008. Commercial Poultry Nutrition. Third Edition.  page 173
  6. Donald D. Bell, Williams D. Weaver. 2009.  Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production. Fifth Edition.
  7. Gail Damerow 1994. The Chicken Health Handbook.

AVES © 2015                   Privacy Policy | Terms of Use