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Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry (ITT)

Turkey project

Department of Animal Husbandry and Behavior / Working group Fattening Poultry

Influence of feeding technic and offering of material for investigatory behaviour on the incidence of feather pecking and cannibalism in not beak trimmed turkeys



Partial beak-amputation will be abandoned through the Niedersächsische Tierschutzplan until 2018. Beak-trimming is already forbidden (§ 6 German animal welfare legislation), but - to reduce the damage caused by feather pecking and cannibalism – an exceptional permission can be given. This way the beak trimming was becoming a standard procedure.

According to bibliographical reference skin injuries caused of pecking have a prevalence of 3% in turkey hens and 12% in turkey males although the beaks are trimmed - what is already done in hatchery shortly after hatch. The prophylactic beak trimming is reducing negative consequences of errant interactions in a certain amount, but the real cause is not overcome.

This cause is assumed to be multifactorial. Beneath environmental factors like stable climate, lighting conditions, social stress, group size, boredom and lack of physical exercise due to unstimulating, unstructured keeping environments, also management mistakes, genetic disposition and feeding effects are discussed.


We are aiming for the development of applicable tools to reduce feather pecking and cannibalism. Main questions are:

  1. In what amount can a modified feeding technique, which keeps the turkeys occupied with food intake for a longer time period, distract them from pecking conspecifics and therefore decreasing the prevalence of skin injuries and plumage damage?
  2. Which effect does a regularly changing enrichment of the keeping environment have on the occurrence of feather pecking and cannibalism in turkeys?

Funded by
Lower Saxony Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Regional Development