News last update:6 Aug 2012

Sand and fibre in diet reduces cannibalism

Adding sand and fibres to poultry feed can prevent cannibalism among chickens because the time spent on eating is prolonged. This is the conclusion of Dr Marinus van Krimpen from Wageningen University.

Wild chickens spend 60% of their time looking for feed. Animal etiologists think that feather picking in domesticated chickens is a derivative from this behaviour. However, with the high energy diets in today's commercial poultry farms, animals don't spend so much time on finding feed anymore. This in turn leads to boredom, feather picking and even cannibalism among the animals.

In an attempt to find some solutions to this problem, Van Krimpen 'diluted' conventional diets with sand and fibres. This made chickens spend more time finding their feed. The fibres also made the feed more filling for the animals. It was shown that this measure leads to a significant reduction in feather picking if you provide the sand and fibres from the beginning. "If you only give the older chickens the 'diluted' feed you are too late", says Van Krimpen. "The feather picking is then already picked up by the birds."

This study plays in on the ban on beak trimming in 2011 and the ban on caged systems in 2012. When all the chickens are held in groups means that the aggression will be higher and problems such as feather picking will be increased.

Already some poultry farmers in the Netherlands are using the diluted feed from Van Krimpen. The only disadvantage for the farmer is that he/she has to buy more volume of feed. Also a bit more manure is produced.

Marinus van Krimpen defended his PhD research on September 16 in Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Related website:
Wageningen University

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