Feather pecking is a growing societal and economic concern, since the 2012 EU-ban on battery cages for laying hens. The upcoming ban on beak trimming may increase the severity of injuries caused by feather pecking, and urges for a solution of this major animal welfare problem eventually resulting in a significant economic loss for the farmer. Wageningen University & Research, in collaboration with multiple actors in the laying hen and egg producing business, started a project to gain insight in a nutrition-related component during rearing on feather pecking during adult life.
Does pre-lay nutrition affect adult pecking behaviour?
The problem of feather pecking in laying hens is already studied from different angles, but now, a nutritional component in young pre-lay birds is the base of this freshly starting research. We hypothesise that nutritional strategies during early ages reduce the sensitivity for initiating feather pecking behaviour at later ages. For example, nutrients can act as precursors for powerful behaviour-related hormones and satiety related gut hormones, which can influence satiety, eating time and pecking-related behaviour.
Novel feeding strategies to reduce animal welfare problems
The current study therefore specifically aims to study the relationship between certain nutritional strategies during early life, the physiological mechanisms related to nutrient availability, energy metabolism and satiety, and the ontogeny of feather pecking behaviour at maturity. The acquired knowledge from this study will be implemented in novel feeding strategies for farmers, reducing the welfare problem for laying hens and the economic losses for farmers.