One of the most effective ways egg farmers can ensure they are providing quality care for their layer flock is to assess animal welfare using bird-based measures. In collaboration with the University of Alberta, EFA developed the Welfare Quality Handbook to help egg farmers evaluate the feather cover, beak health and bone health of their hens. This handbook is based on the Welfare Quality® assessment protocols originally developed in Europe, and a group of Alberta egg farmers received hands-on training from a Welfare Quality® expert.
Feather cover is an important bird-based measurement of animal welfare, since poor feather cover can impact a hen’s feed consumption, temperature regulation, and their ability to protect themselves from injury. Managing feather cover, particularly in alternative housing systems, is a global challenge since hens naturally establish a “pecking order” in every barn. EFA has created a guide to help Alberta egg farmers more effectively manage feather cover in their layer flocks. Monitoring and correcting feather cover is tracked via the national Animal Care Program.
Beak health is an important bird-based measurement of animal welfare, since poor beak health or an improper beak treatment can impact a hen’s ability to eat, drink and forage. Infrared beak treatments are typically performed on 1-10-day old chicks at the hatchery by trained poultry experts, which can help alleviate the negative impact of aggressive pecking. Evaluating beak treatment is tracked via the national Animal Care Program.