Why is it measured?
Feather loss can be a result of various issues, however the location of the feather loss on the bird can help to provide an indication of potential cause. Loss of feathers to the back and vent areas usually indicate feather pecking. The causes of feather pecking are multifactorial but can include breed, nutritional imbalance, housing issues, poor range use and rearing conditions. Feather pecking can be very painful and can result in severe injury, sometimes even cannibalism and death - The resulting poor feather cover can lead to thermal discomfort (cold/sunburn) and reduced productivity. It is understood that the birds carrying out feather pecking are in a stressed state leading them to start this behaviour. Damage to feathers on the head and neck on the other hand can indicate the occurrence of aggressive pecking, often aimed at the head and with the potential to lead to further injury, or mechanical damage, caused by failings of the equipment or housing set-up.
How to assess and score using the AssureWel measure
| 1. Feather loss
| Sample size:
|| 50 birds
|Method of assessment:
|| Assess and score 5 birds in each of 10 different areas of the house and/or range. Visually assess the head/neck area and back/vent area of the bird (without handling birds).
Score separately for head/neck area and back/vent area.
|| 0 =
||No/Minimal feather loss
No bare skin visible, no or slight wear, only single feathers missing
| 1 =
||Slight feather loss
Moderate wear, damaged feathers or 2 or more adjacent feathers missing up to bare skin visible < 5cm maximum dimension
| 2 =
|| Moderate/Severe feather loss
Bare skin visible ≥ 5cm maximum dimension
- Feather loss
- Bird dirtiness
- Beak trimming
- Antagonistic behaviours
- Birds needing further care