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An Investigation of Feather Damage in Canadian Laying Hens

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Title: An Investigation of Feather Damage in Canadian Laying Hens
Author: Decina, Caitlin
Department: Department of Population Medicine
Program: Population Medicine
Advisor: Berke, OlafHarlander, Alexandra
Abstract: Feather damage (FD) due to feather pecking behaviour is a significant welfare problem in laying hens housed in modern production systems. The FD prevalence and factors associated with FD in Canadian laying hen flocks housed in alternative systems is described in this thesis. A scoring system for on-farm FD assessment and a questionnaire focused on housing and management practices were developed. The analysis was based on FD scores and cross-sectional survey data collected from egg farms across Canada from October to December 2017. Prevalence of FD was found to be 21.9% (95% CI: 10.4-33.4%) in furnished cage systems, and 25.9% (95% CI: 15.6- 36.2%) in non-cage systems. Findings suggest that factors most associated with FD include increased age, lack of foraging opportunity, brown feather colour, abnormal lighting cycle from midnight feeding, and poor air quality due to infrequent manure removal. Further investigation of these factors through longitudinal studies and intervention strategy evaluation is warranted.
Date: 2018-12
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