Injurious pecking has serious welfare consequences in flocks of hens kept for egg laying, especially when loose-housed. Frequent diet change is a significant risk for injurious pecking; how the mechanics of diet change influence pecking behavior is unknown. This study investigated the effect of diet change on the behavior of chicks from a laying strain. The study included a 3-week familiarity phase: 18 chick pairs received unflavored feed (Experiment 1); 18 pairs received orange oil-flavored (Experiment 2). All chicks participated in a dietary preference test (P); a diet change (DC); or a control group (C), 6 scenarios. All P chicks preferred unflavored feed. In Experiment 1, DC involved change from unflavored to orange-flavored; Experiment 2, orange-flavored to unflavored. Compared with controls, Experiment 2 DC chicks exhibited few behavioral differences; Experiment 1 DC chicks exhibited increased behavioral event rates on Days 1 and 7. They pecked significantly longer at their environment; by Day 7, they showed significantly more beak activity. There was little evidence of dietary neophobia. Change from more preferred to less preferred feed led to increased activity and redirected pecking behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology