Friday, May 29, 2009

Chummy chickens are allowed to keep their beaks

I couldn't share any more of this article because I don't have a subscription. However, I did see a recent study, which I have misplaced, on this subject. When breeders selected for the individual chickens that lay the most eggs, after a few generations they end up with fewer eggs, because they chickens peck each other so much. Those birds that laid the most eggs turned out to be the most aggressive, and better at keeping other chickens out of the food. When they selected for the group that laid the most eggs, they were successful, because they got chickens which got along, and didn't peck each others feathers out, so they were all healthier.

21 May 1994
Magazine issue 1926

If chicken breeders change the way they choose their parent birds, life on the poultry farm would be friendlier and healthier. Breeders can produce more affable birds, says a researcher from Indiana, eliminating the need to 'de-beak' birds to stop them pecking each other to death.

William Muir of Purdue University has developed an alternative to the breeding strategy used by the five major chicken breeders that produce laying hens for most of the world. His argument is simple: breeders should look for birds that get along together rather than selecting their stock purely on egg-laying prowess.

Today, breeding birds are kept in individual cages while they are assessed, whereas poultry farmers force as many as nine chickens to share a single cage. The breeding system does nothing to eliminate the violence that emerges when chickens are grouped together, says Muir. 'If the breeders are housing the birds in single ...

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