Online tool to benchmark feather loss in laying hens
A collaborative project in the UK has produced a new online tool to help monitor and benchmark feather loss in laying hens.
AssureWel, a five-year collaborative project led by the RSPCA, Soil Association and the University of Bristol, created the tool so that non-caged laying hen producers can compare their scores for feather loss to other non-caged industry flocks.
The tool will help self-assessment of feather loss and provides guidance on improving feather cover.
Mia Fernyhough, RSPCA senior scientific officer, said: "Feather loss has been identified as a key indicator of hen welfare and is a concern across the laying hen industry due to its economic implications and, of course, the impact on the birds themselves through stress, temperature regulation, pain and injury.
"As such it is essential that poultry keepers monitor their flocks for early warning signs, identify the cause of any feather loss and take action to control and improve it."
Feather cover is already being measured during welfare outcome assessments, which have been part of Freedom Food farm assurance inspections for more than two years.
Sophie Butcher, scientific officer at the RSPCA, said: "Producers can access information on how to self-assess their flock for feather cover on the AssureWel website, and for the first time can now use the online benchmarking tool to continually monitor how their flock compares to the rest of the industry - just by the click of a button!"
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