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To study the effects of the application of bits & spectacles in game birds - AW1301

Game birds reared in captivity in common with most poultry are prone to the vices of feather pecking and cannibalism and egg eating. The poultry industry attempts to control this problem by a variety of means varying from long term breeding policies to short term remedies such as beak cautery. A variety of environmental enrichment techniques are carried out in both game birds and poultry rearing with varying and mainly limited success. In the more extensive poultry systems feather pecking and cannibalism are a major cause of mortality and are considered to be important welfare issues.Enrichment techniques whilst encouraged are by no means successful in preventing these “vices” and beak trimming, apart from any welfare concerns, is not satisfactory as the intention is to release the bird to the wild where it continues to forage for itself although supplementary feeding is supplied.In game bird rearing the fitting of a small plastic bit into the beak of the pheasant for a period of 3-4 weeks during the early rearing period in order to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism is an integral part of rearing birds for release or as potential breeding stock. At the time of writing virtually 100% of game rearers use these devices that are removed prior to the release of the bird to the wild.The practice of bitting is widespread and considered necessary by game rearers based on their experience. Most game rearers would prefer not to have to bit birds routinely as the operation is time consuming; however to leave the birds unbitted and to bit as required at the first recording of any of the vices would leave the birds exposed to potential welfare problems and the rearers exposed to unplanned workloads. In laying systems egg eating and cannibalism may be a problem and to combat this plastic devices (spectacles) are some time clipped into the birds nostrils, these block anterior vision and so help prevent the problem.With the current revision of animal welfare legislation questions have been raised over the use of such techniques. There have been no scientific studies assessing the welfare impact of these techniques on the birds. The Game Conservancy Trust in conjunction with The Game farmers Association carried out a pilot survey of case studies in order to assess the use of bits and any issues arising from their use, This survey highlighted the value of bitting in conventional game rearing. It is proposed to build on this experience by carrying out a series of case controlled studies looking at both bitting and the use of spectacles under practical field conditions supplemented where possible by more detailed studies on a more closely controlled site at The Game Conservancy Trust.The information gathered in this work will be published to add to public knowledge on the use of bits and spectacles in game birds and to allow DEFRA to make an objective assessment of the techniques
Project Documents
• Final Report : AW1301 final report   (693k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2007

Cost: £341,362
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Game & Wildlife Conservancy Trust
Animal Welfare              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare