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 and associated welfare issues in layers

Feather pecking behaviour and associated welfare issues in laying hens. By Dixona, Laura Marie, 2008. Avian Biology Research, 1: 73-87(15).


Feather pecking, the pecking at or removal of feathers from one bird by another, is a problem in the poultry industry. Elimination of damaging feather pecking from flocks is made especially difficult by the numerous factors that appear to influence its prevalence. This review outlines the various contributors to feather pecking organised around Tinbergen’s four questions on causation, ontogeny, phylogeny and function. There is growing evidence that feather pecking (especially severe feather pecking) is related to foraging motivation and gut function. However, other factors, such as improper early experiences, strain and individual differences and perseveration of the behaviour help explain its continued occurrence, even if the birds are kept in enriched environments. To date, methods of dealing with feather pecking are inadequate and involve welfare concerns of their own and alternate solutions, such as provision of forages, are not usually successful in abolishing feather pecking behaviour. The problems of excessive pelage/plummage removal or redirected oral/foraging related behaviour are not unique to poultry and seem to occur in other species in which foraging and forage intake is important. Between species comparisons of related behaviour patterns may improve our understanding of feather pecking and help to design effective solutions. In order to solve the problem of feather pecking, the factors discussed in this review need to be accounted for or we risk applying ‘band-aid’ solutions, which may appear outwardly to be solving the problem. However, the underlying cause(s) may still be present and the animal’s welfare may still be compromised.