Feeding behaviors of laying hens and pullets with or without beak trimming
Understanding feeding characteristics of animals is of fundamental value to engineering design and management strategies for enhanced well-being and production efficiency. White Leghorn laying hens have a high tendency of feather pecking and cannibalism. Beak trimming has been a management practice used by the U.S. poultry industry to prevent such cannibalism. However, beak trimming may temporarily or permanently alter the feeding behavior of the birds, which may need to be considered in the engineering design or management schemes (e.g., number of birds per feeder or per feed-line space, time allocation in a mealtime feeding scheme). This study aims to systematically evaluate feeding behaviors of poultry, under both nearly natural conditions and various modified conditions as encountered in commercial production situations. Electronic instrumentation systems and an analytical algorithm are used to yield meal size, meal duration, ingestion rate, and meal interval. The first study examined the comparative feeding behaviors of laying hens with or without beak trimming and revealed intriguing results. A second study quantifies feeding behavior of pullets with or without beak trimming during the period subsequent to beak trimming at 7 days of age. The approach may also be used as a non-invasive means to quantify animal welfare.