Baker, P. E., Nicol, C. J., Weeks, C. A. 2022. The effect of hard pecking enrichment during rear on feather cover, feather pecking behaviour and beak length in beak-trimmed and intact-beak laying hen pullets. Animals 12(6), 674.
Injurious pecking, commonly controlled by beak trimming (BT), is a widespread issue in laying hens associated with thwarted foraging. This controlled study compared the effect in intact and beak-trimmed pullets of providing pecking pans to eight treatment flocks from six weeks of age. Flocks (mean size 6843) comprised eight British Blacktail, six Lohmann Brown and two Bovans Brown. All young birds (6–7 weeks) pecked more frequently at the pecking pans (mean 40.4) than older pullets (mean 26.0, 23.3 pecks/bird/min at 10–11 weeks and 14–15 weeks, respectively) (p < 0.005). There was no effect on feather pecking or plumage cover. Mean side-beak length and mean top-beak lengths were shorter in treatment flocks at 6–7 weeks and 10–11 weeks (p < 0.001). Intact-beak treatment flocks had shorter mean side-beak length at 10–11 weeks (p < 0.001) and at 14–15 weeks (p < 0.05) and mean top-beak length at 6–7 weeks (p < 0.05) and at 10–11 weeks (p < 0.05). BT treatment flocks had shorter side-beak and top-beak lengths at 6–7 weeks and at 10–11 weeks (p < 0.001). Beak lengths showed linear growth, with individual bird variation indicating a potential for genetic selection. The study demonstrated that abrasive material can reduce beak length in pullets.