Effect of feed on feather pecking
A graduate in Wageningen showed that the feather pecking in chickens can be diminished by presenting the animals with diluted feed. This way, the chickens spend more time feeding and will peck their feathers significantly less.
Forest chicken spend sixty percent of their time gathering feed. Ethologists believe that feather pecking may have something to do with this. The feed of laying-hens is rich in energy. This means that the chickens are done feeding quite fast and will get bored. During the experiments, the normal feed was diluted with sand and fibres. This way, it took the chickens significantly longer to gather their feed. Due to the fibres, the chickens were satisfied sooner. The adapted feed led to a significant decrease in feather pecking, but only when the chicks had been presented with the feed from a young age. When the new feed was presented to adult chickens, it was already too late. The feather pecking was already learned.
The results of this research are already being put into practice. Disadvantages are the higher production of manure en the acquisition of more feed. But it does have a future. From 2011 onwards there will be a ban on the trimming of beaks and in 2012 battery cages will be banned. From then onwards all chickens will be housed in percheries and free range systems. The big problem in this kind of housing is pecking among the animals.