Fijn, L., van der Staay, F., Goerlich-Jansson, V. et al. 2020. Importance of basic research on the causes of feather pecking in relation to welfare. Animals 10(2), 213.
Feather pecking is a prominent issue in the commercial egg industry, associated with economic losses and welfare problems. A non-systematic literature search suggests that studies on feather pecking are predominantly concerned with applied research goals. That is to say, they aim to solve or diminish the effects of this problematic behavior by orienting towards practical approaches. The strong emphasis on this research approach has skewed our knowledge of the causes of feather pecking in relation to welfare. While the need for such research is high, there is an equivalent need for basic research that has not received corresponding effort. Also, current research predominantly focuses on the negative effects on the birds being pecked, whereas too little attention is given to the possible welfare problems of the peckers. We argue that more basic research is needed for obtaining comprehensive science-based knowledge of behavioral needs and abilities of hens, in particular with respect to behavioral problems that threaten their welfare.