Animal Care / Welfare
What is animal welfare?
Animal welfare refers to the protection of the health and well-being of animals. It concerns how an animal is coping in its living environment in terms of freedom from hunger and thirst, fear and distress, discomfort, pain injury or disease, and the freedom to express natural behaviours.
Farmers and animal welfare
Animal welfare is a fundamental part of farming and egg farmers understand the responsibility they have for animals in their care. Animal welfare is also an important aspect of competition: for an egg farmer to be successful their hens must be highly productive and this is not possible if the hens are suffering from illness or stress.
Caring for hens
Caring for hens is complex and involves trade-offs between different aspects of animal welfare that may conflict. For example, increased freedom to exhibit natural behaviours can expose hens to greater risks in outdoor environments. While egg farmers use three main systems to manage animal welfare – cage, barn and free range - research has found the biggest factor influencing welfare is how the hen is cared for.
Improving hen health and welfare represents an important opportunity for productivity gains in each egg production system and to ensure management practices align with consumer expectations.
Australian Eggs has made hen welfare a key area of focus and we are supporting best practice animal husbandry through robust, replicated and peer reviewed science. This process also includes the communication of key research outcomes of best management practice to all stakeholders.
Managing Fowl Behaviour – a best practice guide
Feather pecking and cannibalism can be a significant problem for poultry or chicken farmers and breeders as it can lead to reduced bird well-being and lost production. There are several on-farm strategies that can be used to reduce the risk of feather pecking or cannibalism. Infrared beak treatment is used to complement these. As the last resort a rescue trim with a hot blade may be used to bring an injurious pecking event under control. Debeaking is a misleading term that was once used to describe beak tipping. It incorrectly suggests removal of the beak whereas the industry practice of beak treatment or beak trimming removes the tip of the beak only.
The Managing Fowl Behaviour handbook provides poultry breeders, pullet rearers and layer farmers with the resources to reduce the risk of feather pecking and cannibalism. It provides an overview of the problem, the various solutions available to manage it, and resources that can be used by farm managers as a benchmark tool to compare their current management strategies with those considered to be best practice. It also includes tools for beak and feather scoring. Beak scoring evaluates the condition of the flocks beaks and feather scoring provides an estimate of their feather condition.
A brief introduction to Managing Fowl Behaviour, checklists, work instructions and scoring sheets in the appendices of the handbook are available as separate downloads designed for use in the chicken house.
NOTE – the IRBT scoring and instructions and the requirements for hot blade trimming and scoring instructions have been updated in the handbooks and appendices.
Managing Fowl Behaviour
Managing Fowl Behaviour high resolution (updated April 2018)
Managing Fowl Behaviour low resolution (updated April 2018)
An introduction to Managing Fowl Behaviour (updated April 2018)
A summary of the causes of feather pecking and cannibalism, management strategies and husbandry practices to reduce the risk of a pecking event.
Monitoring and managing poultry to minimise feather pecking and cannibalism
A checklist of farm practices necessary to manage disruptive stressors and minimise the risk of feather pecking or cannibalism or for when the first signs of feather pecking or cannibalism in a flock are observed.
Feather pecking and cannibalism event work instructions
Work instructions or standard operating procedures for when feather pecking or cannibalism occurs in a flock.
Audit questions for breeders on practices to minimise pecking risk in progeny
Farm practices audit and implications that contribute to the risk of feather pecking and cannibalism in breeder progeny.
Audit questions for farm managers on husbandry practices to minimise pecking risk
Farm practices and implications that contribute to the risk of feather pecking and cannibalism in a poultry flock.
Feather condition and behaviour score sheet
Scoring sheets for monitoring plumage condition, pecking behaviour, flock vocalisation and flightiness. These sheets can also be used to train stock hands to develop their skills in observing and detecting changes in flock behaviour during daily checks. (Print in colour for best results)
Work instructions for monitoring chickens after infrared beak treatment
Work instructions or standard operating procedures for managing beak treated chickens at placement in the brooder to make sure they get off to a good start.
Infrared beak treatment beak shape scoring sheets (Updated April 2018)
Scoring sheets and instructions for assessing the beak shape of IRBT poultry. Score the beaks at 28 days of age, before and after delivery to the laying facilities, when a feather pecking or cannibalism event occurs and towards the end of lay if there are concerns about beak shape.
Farm manager and trim team check list for hot blade beak trimming
A checklist for farm managers and hot blade trim team leaders when beak trimming a poultry flock.
Work instructions for monitoring poultry after hot blade beak trimming
Work instructions or standard operating procedures for regular monitoring of a flock after trimming with a hot blade.
Scoring sheets for monitoring beaks after trimming with hot blade (Updated April 2018)
Scoring sheets and instructions for assessing the shape and imperfections of beaks following trimming with a hot blade. Score the beaks on the day of trim, 10–14 days after trimming, before and after delivery to the laying facilities, when a feather pecking or cannibalism event occurs and towards the end of lay if there are concerns about beak shape.
Codes of Practice