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, says
Dr Marinus van Krimpen from Wageningen University in the
Wild chickens spend 60% of their time looking for food. Etiologists think
that feather picking in domesticated chickens is a derived from this behaviour.
However, with the high energy diets in commercial poultry farms, animals do not
spend a lot of time eating anymore, which leads to boredom, feather picking and
In his research, Van Krimpen 'diluted' conventional diets with sand and
fibres, which means that the chickens spend more time finding food. The fibres
also made the feed more filling for the birds. It was shown that this measure
leads to a significant reduction in feather picking if the sand and fibre is
provided 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. From 2012 all the chickens will be held in groups,
meaning aggression will be higher and problems such as feather picking will
Some poultry farmers are already using the diluted feed. The disadvantage
for the farmer is that he/she has to buy a greater volume of feed. Additionally,
more manure is produced.
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