Guidance

A guide to the practical management of feather pecking and cannibalism in free range laying hens

The guidance is a distillation of the views expressed at workshops on tackling the issue without beak trimming.

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Feather pecking is an abnormal behaviour whereby some laying hens peck others sometimes removing feathers, which can result in poor plumage, patches of feather loss, skin damage and even death.

The traditional method of alleviating the problems associated with feather pecking has been to beak trim laying hens.

Recognising that the requirement to stop routine beak trimming represented a major technical challenge to the Industry, during 2002 Defra announced the setting up of an “Action Plan on Beak Trimming” working group, whose purpose was to draw up an action plan to work towards the ban on beak trimming in all systems of production by the end of 2010. As part of this process, a number of workshops were arranged to provide a forum for discussion on the practical management of feather pecking and cannibalism in free range flocks.

The guidance contained in this booklet is a distillation of the views expressed at those workshops by those with first-hand knowledge of tackling the issue on a day to day basis.

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