05 Oct 2022
Feather pecking and nutrition in poultry
Feather pecking and cannibalism are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Among the environmental factors, nutrition and feeding behavior play a prominent role.
While nutritionists assume that feather pecking is caused by nutrient deficiencies or imbalances, ethologists look for causes that stem from impulses associated with feed intake.
The problem of cannibalism exists in hens, broilers, turkeys and other species of domestic poultry, such as quail, royal ducks and ostriches. Although debeaking is effective in regards to preventing this problem, it is no longer allowed in many countries as it goes against animal welfare
Oats appear to be the type of grain that reduces feather pecking the most, compared to barley and wheat (Wahlström et al., 1998).
However, in chickens, this positive effect depends on the genotype: some genetic lines respond positively to oats, while others do not.
When comparing barley and wheat, Brahamsson et al. (1996) found a better plumage condition in layers fed a high barley diet(25% barley/39% wheat) in contrast to a high in wheat diet(50% wheat/14% barley).
|Grains containing high amounts of fiber have been shown to have a positive effect on feather pecking and cannibalism.
However, this effect is highly variable and it is subjected to interactions with the genotype and the environment.
Energy and protein levels in the diet
The level of metabolizable energy in the diet appears to have little direct effects on feather pecking and cannibalism. However, as the level of metabolic energy influences the regulation of feed intake, this can indirectly affect the level of pecking by increasing or reducing certain nutrient deficiencies.
A lack of animal protein has been considered one of the causes of feather pecking and cannibalism.
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