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Animal Welfare

Rachel Wilson free range farm

Leading Research: in 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.

Hen welfare is critical for an efficient and sustainable egg farming business. Improving hen health and welfare represents an important opportunity for productivity gains in each egg production system and to ensure that management practices align with consumer expectations.

The investment in hen welfare RD&E means that animal husbandry on-farm is supported by robust, replicated and peer reviewed science, with key research outcomes regarding best management practice being communicated to all stakeholders.

It is intended that outcomes will be animal welfare gains, productivity improvements and the ongoing sustainability of Australian’s egg industry.

Key Resources

  • 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)

  • Model Code of Practice for Domestic Poultry

    The minimum standards outlined in this code are intended to help people involved in the care and management of poultry to adopt standards of husbandry that are acceptable.

  • An introduction to Managing Fowl Behaviour

    A summary of the causes of feather pecking, management strategies and husbandry practices to reduce the risk of a pecking event.

  • Land Transport of Poultry Standards and Guidelines

    Standards and guidelines that ensure the welfare of poultry during land transport.

  • Managing Fowl Behaviour

    A best practice guide to help manage feather pecking in pullet, layer and breeder flocks.

  • 4 x Best practice lighting management factsheets

    These fact sheets outline basic information about the relationship between lighting and hen health, productivity and behaviour.

Current Research

  • Non-invasive technology for gender determination of fertilised chicken eggs

    Using an optical technique, researchers will be working on developing a device that can automatically determine the gender of chicken eggs. If the project is successful, the result will be a desktop device suitable for hatcheries.

  • Automated, real-time monitoring of bird and flock movement and behaviour

    In this proof of concept study, researchers will use artificial intelligence technology to detect certain behaviours in the flock and send an automated alert to staff.

  • Hen ranging behaviour in relation to UV light

    This project is investigating UV light and light intensity and its effects on ranging behaviour of free range hens. This project will determine whether hens prefer or avoid high levels of UV or light intensity, how ranging behaviour is affected, and will better inform shade requirements.

  • Causes of on-farm smothering

    Conducting a comprehensive study of 80 flocks in Victoria and Queensland to identify factors that are associated with smothering events. The results will provide a better understanding of interventions to prevent or minimise smothers.

  • Practical strategies to measure hen welfare

    Using the emerging field of microRNA to identify potential biomarkers of affective states in hens. This project will identify positive and negative markers that can be tested in pooled egg samples.

  • Egg Farming Systems Welfare Science Review

    A review of the research to date on physiological and behavioural welfare indicators of hens in caged, barn and alternate systems; such as free range. The report provides a summary of the advantages, disadvantages and issues of different egg production systems.

Completed Research

Projects you might find interesting

Want to see what an egg farm looks like? Take this interactive 360 degree tour to see how eggs are produced in Australia.

Free range farm with two people