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Bestman, M.W.P. and J. Wagenaar. 2003. Farm level factors associated with feather pecking in organic laying hens. Livestock Production Science. 80:133-140.

Number of pages: 8

Type of document: Journal Article

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More information on authors/freelancers connected to LBI :
Monique W. P. Bestman MSc.;
Jan-Paul Wagenaar MSc.


Language of document: English

Title in English: Farm level factors associated with feather pecking in organic laying hens

Abstract / summary in English:

Farm-level factors that could be associated with feather pecking of layers kept in organic farming systems were monitored in 63 flocks from 26 farms located in different areas of The Netherlands. Data on housing and management practices were collected and plumage damage as a measure of feather pecking was scored at 50 weeks of age or older. No or little plumage damage was found in 18 (29%) flocks, moderate damage in 12 (19%) flocks and severe damage in 33 (52%) flocks. A high percentage of hens in the flock using the outdoor run, a young age at purchase and an increasing number of cockerels present in the flock were found to significantly decrease feather pecking damage at 50 weeks or older. Factors associated with increased usage of the outdoor run were smaller flock size, a young age at purchase, an increasing number of cockerels present in the flock and a higher percentage of cover in the run. Based on the results organic farmers are likely to benefit from rearing their own layers. They should keep cockerels with their layers. Other practices resulting in low feather pecking damage are stimulating the use of the outdoor run by making it attractive with vegetative or artificial cover or keeping the flock size at around 500 birds.