GroupHouseNet: webstream updates on beak trimming and tail docking

COST action GroupHouseNet Stakeholder Meeting

June 27th 2018


Schedule (Local time in Turkey: CET +1),

Webstreamed session:

09:00-9:05      Brief introduction to the Action and meeting, Action Chair Andrew M. Janczak

09:05-9:10      Introduction from the organiser, Sezen Ozkan

09:15-9:45      Challenges and possible solutions related to damaging behaviour in laying hens, Mia Fernyhough, RSPCA

09:50-10:20    Research on risk factors and prevention of damaging behaviour in laying hens, Elske de Haas, WUR

10:20-10:45    Break

10:50-11:20    Tail biting and actions to prevent tail biting in the EU, Copa Cogeca, Miguel

Angel Higuera, Director ANPROGAPOR, Madrid

11:25-11:55    European Commission project to reduce systematic tail-docking of piglets in

Member States, Desmond Maguire, European Commission, DG Health and Food Safety


How to join the webstream:

  1. Primary link: Ege university digital media server: This link can only be viewed with PC/notebook with enable flash player-supported internet browser (does not support mobile phone or tablet view).
  2. Second optionIn case there are any problems, we may use this Youtube link:


Poultry Transport video released!

Poultry Transport video released!
made by Animal Transport Guides project

The practical video on how to best transport poultry, based on the guide to Good Practise ( click here)  for the transport of poultry and three dedicated Fact Sheets, is now available. This video provides practical advise to ensure that birds transported remain in good welfare, and is available with translated subtitles in 8 languages.

English video
French video



Interested on watching videos on Pig, Cattle,Horses and sheep transport? Click here

Hennovation project results

When research meets farming to lift welfare (article in Poultry World, dd 12-6-2018).

The EU-funded Hennovation project was an exercise in bringing egg farmers together with researchers to develop practical ways to improve welfare, as Tony McDougal discovers.

Researchers have partnered with farmers to draw up practical new measures for improving the health and welfare of farmed poultry.
The 2 ½ year EU-funded Hennovation project, which ended this autumn, has been finding ways to introduce practice-led innovation in sustainable animal welfare through the development of innovation networks.

The core of the project was more than 15 so-called “innovation networks”, involving producers and laying-hen processors, established in 5 EU countries – the Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands. They looked at a range of technical challenges including feather loss through injurious pecking, red mites and handling hens at end-of-lay.

Read more at the Poultry World website.

Feather pecking & injurious pecking in organic laying hens in 107 flocks from 8 European countries

Feather-pecking and injurious pecking in organic laying hens in 107 flocks from eight European countries.
By Bestman, M; Verwer, C; Brenninkmeyer, C; Willett, A; Hinrichsen, LK; Smajlhodzic, F; Heerkens, JLT; Gunnarsson, S; Ferrante, V. 2017.
Animal Welfare, 26: 355-363(9).

Feather-pecking and cannibalism may reduce the potential of organic husbandry to enhance the welfare of laying hens. We report risk factors for these issues based on a large survey of 107 commercial flocks in eight European countries. Information was collected regarding housing, management and flock characteristics (age, genotype). Near the end of lay, 50 hens per flock were assessed for plumage condition and wounds. Potential influencing factors were screened and submitted to a multivariate model. The majority of the flocks (81%) consisted of brown genotypes and were found in six countries. Since white genotypes (19%) were found only in the two Scandinavian countries, a country effect could not be excluded. Therefore, separate models were made for brown and white genotypes. Feather damage in brown hens could be explained by a model containing a lower dietary protein content and no daily access to the free range (30% of the variation explained). For feather damage in white hens, no model could be made. Wounds in brown hens were associated with not having daily access to free range (14% of the variation explained). Wounds in white hens were explained by a model containing not topping-up litter during the laying period (26% of the variation explained). These results suggest that better feeding management, daily access to the free-range area and improved litter management may reduce incidence of plumage damage and associated injurious pecking, hence enhancing the welfare of organic laying hens. Since this was an epidemiological study, further experimental studies are needed to investigate the causal relationships.

Battle against poultry red mites

The battle against red mites
By Marleen Teuling, Poultry World, Oct. 13, 2017.

Controlling red mite is an emerging issue of great significance to the global egg industry. But it is also an underestimated problem by many poultry producers, who aren’t always aware of the full impact of a red mite infestation. Here’s an insight into the consequences.

Read more on the battle against red mites @ Poultry World.

Resource package reduces feather pecking and improves ranging in free-range layers

Provision of a resource package reduces feather pecking and improves ranging distribution on free-range layer farms

By Isabelle C Pettersson, Claire A Weeks, Christine J Nicol. 2017. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 195: 60-66.


• The effect of a resource package on welfare was studied on 14 commercial farms.
• Shelters, pecking pans and wind chimes were installed following a baseline year.
• Shelters and pecking pans were used consistently by birds.
Feather pecking decreased and range distribution improved.
• Some other welfare measures showed improvement.


The effect of a resource package designed to reduce inter-bird pecking and increase range use was tested on fourteen free-range farms in the UK. The package comprised two types of objects intended to attract pecking behaviour: ‘pecking pans’ containing a particulate pecking block, and wind chimes; plus long, narrow shelters placed just outside the popholes, bridging a barren area 2–10 m from the house, with the aim of improving bird distribution on the range. We predicted that if the resource package succeeded in these aims, overall bird welfare would also be improved. Fourteen commercial farms were enrolled for this two-year study. Flocks were assessed for pecking behaviour, range use and general indicators of welfare at 40 weeks in Year 1 without the resource package. The resource package was then added to the same houses at the start of the next flock cycle in Year 2. The new flocks were assessed in the same way at 40 weeks with additional observations taken of their use of the resource package at 25 and 40 weeks. These additional observations showed that most aspects of pecking behaviour directed at the pecking pans remained consistent from 25 to 40 weeks although a reduction in substrate pecking frequency was seen (p < 0.001) and birds perched on the pan for longer (p = 0.033) and more often (p = 0.010) at 40 weeks. Although consistent within houses, wind chime use was very variable between houses, with pecking observed in only 8 of the 14 houses. The number of birds under the shelters increased from 25 to 40 weeks (p = 0.018), as did the proportion of birds that went under a shelter within 5 min of entering the range area (p = 0.021). Birds were more likely to use a shelter within 5 min if they exited the shed via a pophole within 10 m of the shelter rather than a pophole more than 10 m away at both 25 weeks (p < 0.001) and 40 weeks (p = 0.001).

A reduction in gentle feather pecking (p = 0.001) and severe feather pecking (p = 0.018) behaviour was seen when the resource package was provided in Year 2. Range distribution also improved, with a greater proportion of birds seen 2–10 m from the house (p = 0.023). Additionally, the proportion of abnormal eggs (p = 0.010), headshaking behaviour (p = 0.009) and the percentage of wet/capped litter (p = 0.043) decreased in Year 2.

Management tips to stop feather pecking

Management tips to stop feather pecking

By Tony McDougal. Poultry World, 2 Oct., 2017.

The UK branch of the World’s Poultry Science Association held its annual conference in Cambridge this summer. Scientists looked at poultry feathers and skin – the past, present and future of poultry integument.

Management risk factors and genetic influences have an effect on feather pecking, according to the University of Bristol’s Christine Nicol.

Thea van Niekerk, from the Wageningen Livestock Research centre, Netherlands, adds prevention is most important as once feather pecking begins, the behaviour is very hard to stop.

Ms van Niekerk explains that optimising rearing conditions to prevent injurious pecking was the first step: “The most important strategy in rear is a continuous presence of good substrate to stimulate foraging behaviour and to teach the pullets to direct their pecking towards the litter.”

Esther Ellen and Piter Bijima, of Wageningen University Research Animal Breeding and Genomics centre, assessed genetic solutions to injurious pecking.

They argued that, while behavioural observations can be used to select against feather pecking, they were expensive, time consuming and difficult to apply in animal breeding. Instead, a solution could come from quantitative genetic methods that took into account both the direct (DGE, victim effect) and indirect genetic effect (IGE, actor effect).

“For the survival time, we found that the victim effect contributes 35-87% of total heritable variation. Together, they explain 15-26% of total phenotypic variation in survival time.

Professor Nicol’s joint paper with Dr Claire Weeks, ‘Provision of a resource package reduces feather pecking and improves ranging distribution on free-range layer farms,’ was published in the Applied Animal Behaviour Science in July.

Note: Read more on … in Poultry World.

Practice vs theory on the prevention of feather pecking in laying hens in non-cage systems

Are practice recommendations for the prevention of feather pecking in laying hens in non-cage systems in line with the results of experimental and epidemiological studies?

By Lisa Jung, Ute Knierim, In press. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci.


• We compared 15 practice recommendations with results of 108 empirical studies.
• On average each recommendation contained less than 50% of the 49 confirmed preventive factors.
• In total they also comprised 15 contentious and 12 not yet investigated factors.
• On this basis recommendations should be amended and further studies conducted.


Feather pecking (FP) in laying hens is an important animal welfare problem in practice, despite extensive research and increasing sources of advice for farmers. We aimed to give an overview over results from experimental and epidemiological studies. We included non-cage systems, covering the rearing and laying phase. The investigated factors were categorised into those with either good, contentious or no evidence regarding preventive effects on FP. Moreover, we wanted to know to what extent recommendations for farmers are based on this scientific evidence. We extracted 62 potential preventive factors from 88 experimental and 21 epidemiological studies. 17 factors during rearing, and 32 factors during the laying phase significantly affected the risk to develop FP or plumage damage (PD). Factors were counted as significant if other studies found no or at most one opposite result. Seven factors during rearing and 16 factors during laying were confirmed by more than one study, with no or at most one opposite result. Provision of dry litter on the floor and sufficiently high perches during rearing and laying or a high use of the free range area during the laying phase were among these influencing factors. In the reviewed 15 practice recommendations, almost all of these factors have been taken up, although no recommendation comprises all factors and most miss more than the half of them. This leaves ample room for improvement of the recommendations. On the other hand, they altogether recommend 15 contentious as well as eight non-significant or 12 not yet investigated factors for which further scientific investigation is necessary.

Update on Poultry Red Mite at International Egg Commission’s conference in Bruges

Challenges and solutions in coping with poultry red mite

Delegates at the International Egg Commission’s conference in Bruges were given an update on the spread of poultry red mite, the ongoing scientific work and solutions to controlling outbreaks.

Read more in Poultry World

From the article:

Poultry red mite (PRM) is widespread across Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Only North America is currently free from mite.

PRM thrives in high temperatures and high humidity and has a life cycle of between 7-17 days.

It led birds to become restless at night, caused skin and feather irritation, could lead to feather pecking and cannibalism and disturbed the egg function at night. In moderate to severe cases, it led to anaemia, weight loss and immune-suppression.

They can survive without a single meal for a year or longer and can tolerate temperatures of up to 45°C and below -25°C.

The total annual cost of poultry med mite infestations in the European egg laying industry is estimated to be €231m and €3.2bn worldwide.

Integrated pest management is the way forward in tackling the mite.