Feather pecking

Feather pecking occurs where one bird pecks or pulls at the feathers of another bird. It can damage plumage, injure the bird’s skin and sometimes even lead to cannibalism. It can reduce the farmer’s profits (e.g. birds with a poor plumage condition usually eat more food). Current remedial measures, such as beak trimming and low light, are associated with welfare problems. Feather pecking is thought to occur when pecks that should be directed at the ground are for some reason redirected at other birds. Individual birds differ in their tendency to peck and to be pecked. Both pecking and proneness to being pecked appear to be genetically influenced.

Hence, a long-term strategy for reducing pecking in commercial poultry production is for breeders to select against these characteristics. In the shorter term, rearing the birds on litter reduces pecking. Environmental enrichment, using simple devices such as coloured polypropylene string, can also be helpful.
A small group of hens with one very aggressive animal. Video: Jenny Yngvesson - click here!