f you picked up a new record-keeping book for 2018 you will notice a new addition – feather cover monitoring! In 2018, EFA is encouraging each farmer, regardless of the housing system used, to start monitoring feather cover in their layer flocks. Monitoring feather cover is voluntary, however, through the year we will be continuing to encourage this practice and will be releasing additional resources on feather cover to support farmers in adopting this flock management tool.

Feather cover is important for many reasons: it is linked to the overall perception of bird welfare, it can impact a bird’s feed consumption, temperature regulation, and their ability to protect themselves from injury. By monitoring feather cover in your flock, you can identify changes or issues early, which can aide you in understanding possible causes of the problem and in turn, potential solutions. Monitoring over time will also help you better understand the impacts of any measures you take to manage feather cover issues in your flocks.

We’ve chosen a system for feather cover monitoring that is quick, easy, reliable and was developed here in Canada. The assessment is visual, so you don’t have to handle your birds and the assessment can be done as you complete your regular barn walk-through.
The new feather monitoring sheets in your record book include complete instructions on how to select birds for monitoring and how to score feather cover. Here are some highlights:

  • It is recommended that a flock’s feather cover be monitored 3 to 4 times during the lay cycle at regular intervals (for example at 20, 35, 50 and 65 weeks of age).
  • We suggest monitoring 50 birds each time you record feather cover scores. Be sure to review the instructions for how to select birds that reflect the flock housed in your barn and how to avoid bias.
  • Birds are scored on feather cover in two areas – their head/neck and their back/rump. The scoring system is as follows:

We encourage you to reflect on the results of your feather cover monitoring and to record your observations as well as any adjustments you’ve made to manage emerging feather
cover issues.

A new page has been added to the producer website under Animal Care – Best Practices with additional resources on feather cover management including the complete guide for the Canadian feather cover, the Featherwel guide that provides advice on practical
strategies to reduce the risk of injurious pecking, and more!

We hope you find the record keeping pages and the resources on feather cover helpful! If you have questions or feedback on the resources, please feel welcome to contact Christina at Chris[email protected]