1. The aim of the study was to compare the management and husbandry of free-range flocks in the UK where feather pecking was either present (case) or absent (control). 2. One hundred flocks were enrolled into a concurrent case-control study: 50 where birds had recently started feather pecking, and 50 matched control flocks where birds of the same age had not started feather pecking. 3. Information was obtained from a detailed interview with the flock manager, and by direct inspection of the flock, house and range. 4. Initial univariate analyses revealed that case flocks were more likely to comprise ISA Brown than Lohmann, were more likely to be restricted from litter areas to prevent floor eggs, and were less likely to use the outside range. 5. Cluster analysis indicated that feather pecking was not associated with any particular husbandry system. 6. The only influential risk factor significant in the multivariable conditional logistic regression analysis was use of the outdoor range. The risk of feather pecking was reduced 9-fold in flocks where more than 20% of birds used the range on sunny days (odds ratio = 0.12). Use of the range was positively associated with the presence of trees and/or hedges on the range.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded as part of DEFRA project AW0214. We thank all the farmers who gave us
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology