Your result is in the red area of the graph

Your flock is falling into the bottom 25% of flocks for feather loss. You may already know the cause behind the feather loss and have taken actions to address this.  If not the following 4 steps may help you to identify problems and make improvements:

1. Why do you have high feather loss?

There is likely to be a combination of factors contributing to feather loss. The area in which the feather loss is occurring on the bird may help you determine the potential cause.

Two key areas of feather loss to focus on are the Head and Neck and the Back and Vent.  

Head and Neck feather loss
Back and Vent feather loss

If your flock’s main area of feather loss is the head and neck area it is likely to be associated with aggression and / or mechanical damage:

  • Aggression – aggressive pecking is normally directed at the head and neck area and takes place during fighting, chasing and the establishment of a hierarchy.
  • Mechanical damage - equipment in the house or the housing set up causing wear on the feathers.

Feather loss in the back and vent area can be caused by injurious pecking. A few of the most common causes include:

  • Nutritional imbalance – for example an essential amino acid or sodium deficiency
  • Stress
  • A lack of sufficient foraging opportunities
  • Poor range use
  • Disease pressure

More information specific to injurious feather pecking and it's management can be found in the FeatherWel guide.

2. How you can manage the problem?

Current flock: Within your current flock it may be difficult to achieve an improvement in feather cover, however there are actions you can take to help prevent the problem from becoming worse:

Observe your birds for signs of feather pecking, aggression or for contact against fixtures and fittings which may be causing mechanical damage (focus on next box entrances, pop holes and feeders and drinkers).

Managing head and neck feather loss
Managing back and vent feather loss

If you feel the damage to the head and neck area is due to housing set-up or equipment:

  • Adjust your equipment to prevent wear on feathers.
  • Consider heights and size of feeders and drinkers – especially chain feeders.
  • Ensure all equipment is in good and safe working order.

To help reduce aggressive pecking minimise competition within the flock and encourage stable groups:

  • Avoid mixing established groups at any stage of production.
  • Consider increasing space or facilities to minimise competition – verandas, feeders, drinkers, perches and nest boxes.
  • Provide safe refuges such as resting areas and visual barriers.
Firstly address any pest, disease or nutritional challenges identified that could be causing the feather loss.

Increase enrichment and foraging opportunities within the house and encourage birds to range:

Future flocks:

As well as implementing the actions above, read through the Feather Cover Guide [pdf, 661 KB] and implement as many additional measures as possible, key considerations for your next flock to reduce feather loss include:

3. How can you monitor feather loss?

Monitoring feather loss by regular self assessment will enable you to see the effectiveness of any of the above actions you’ve put in place. It will also enable you to pick up any early warning signs of feather loss in future flocks and put practices in place to reduce this.

You can regularly check your flocks’ scores using the AssureWel Benchmarking Tool to monitor feather loss performance and compare your scores to those of your fellow producers.

Use the following links to help you monitor feather cover:

4. Get help and support to make improvements
If you have any concerns about feather loss in your flock, or would like further information, please visit our Advisory Support pages, contact the AssureWel Welfare Advisors or your vet. 

Did you know?

  • Improving the indoor environment is the second most common change producers are making to improve welfare, e.g. providing better litter quality and extra enrichment.

  • A poorly feathered hen will need up to 40% more feed to keep warm and is far less efficient at converting feed energy to egg mass.

Monitor your feather loss

AssureWel Benchmarking Tool
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