THE EFFECTS OF EARLY LIFE TREATMENTS ON FEARFULNESS AND FEATHER PECKING IN LAYING HENS.
Leeuwen, E. van
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Feather pecking (FP) is a major welfare issue in laying hen farming, therefore it is necessary to find out which factors could play a role in this. There are three main factors that play a role in the development of feather pecking; not being able to properly express the motivation to show foraging and feeding behaviour, the influence of maternal hormones and the ability to cope with fear and stress. When the chick has enough opportunities to show foraging behaviour from an early age, FP behaviour decreases. Feather pecking could be related to fearfulness in laying hens. In this research, this looked into the effects of early life treatments on feather pecking behaviour and fearfulness in laying hens. Two early life treatments were applied; incubation of the eggs under a 12:12 light dark-cycle (LD-cycle) with a green light and feeding live larvae in a food puzzle. Early life treatments were expected to cause a reduction in feather pecking behaviour and fearfulness. By providing the chick with a food puzzle with live larvae, and therefore more foraging opportunities, it was expected to cause a decrease in feather pecking behaviour or even prevent it from developing this behaviour. Half of the eggs were incubated in a 12 hour light-12 hour dark cycle (12:12 LD-cycle) and the other half was incubated in the dark. There were 20 pens with ten chicks each. Half of the pens received the larvae daily and the other pens did not. In total there were four treatment groups; dark/enriched (D/E, n=7), light dark/enriched (12:12 LD cycle with green light) (LD/E, n=3), dark/not enriched (D/NE, n=3), light dark/not enriched (LD/NE, n=7), in which D/NE is the control group. During home pen observations feather pecking behaviour was scored. A social reinstatement test was used to look at fear responses of the chicks. From the results, an assumption could be made. It seems that larvae treatment caused a decrease in GFP behaviour. But because there were no significant outcomes, this could not be confirmed. We also could not confirm the effectiveness of the treatments on SFP behaviour. The effects of the treatments on the fear responses in the social reinstatement test also could not be confirmed. Thus more research is required to see if early life treatments could reduce feather pecking and fearfulness in laying hens. If research could be done with bigger sample size and more home pen observations, there might be a significant outcome found.