The development of injurious pecking in a commercial turkey facility.

Duggan, G., Widowski, T.M., Quinton, M., and Torrey, S. (2014). "The development of injurious pecking in a commercial turkey facility.", Journal of Applied Poultry Research (JAPR), 23(2), pp. 280-290. doi : 10.3382/japr.2013-00860  Access to full text


Injurious pecking is considered a major economic concern and affects all sectors of commercial poultry production. Though extensive research has been performed examining feather pecking in layer chickens, little information exists regarding feather or head pecking behavior in domestic turkey flocks, and less still in commercial settings. The objective of the present field study was to examine the development of injurious feather and head pecking in tom turkeys raised in 2 different commercial environments. At a commercial facility, 49,332 beak-conditioned tom turkeys were placed in 8 barns (5,000–7,500 turkeys/barn) and studied through 16 wk of age. Approximately half were housed in control barns in March 2010; these barns were environmentally controlled (artificial light and tunnel ventilation) in both rearing and growing, with a density of 0.16 m2/bird for rearing through 4.5 wk and 0.39 m2/bird for growing through 16 wk. The remaining turkeys were housed in curtain-sided barns in April 2010; the 4 rearing barns were environmentally controlled with a density of 0.10 m2/bird, whereas the 4 growing barns had natural light and ventilation and a density of 0.36 to 0.38 m2/bird through 16 wk. Two barns from each growing environment were provided with multicolored plastic balls as enrichment. Each housing and enrichment combination had 2 replicate barns. Behavior, weights, and feather condition were assessed every 3 wk. Mortalities and culls were recorded as they occurred. Turkeys in curtain-sided barns had worse feather condition and more culls and mortalities with severe pecking injuries compared with those in control barns. In both environments, severe and gentle pecking was observed throughout production, and the majority of culls and mortalities had severe pecking injuries. More controlled studies are needed to parse the causal factors of injurious pecking in toms.

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