Applied scoring of integument and health in laying hens
Different methods for scoring of birds' integument are often used to describe the effects of various treatments in research on the health and welfare of laying hens. Also in commercial egg production and breeding there is a need for having a tool to describe the status of a certain flock of birds or a pure line. Among the main traits to score are plumage and foot condition and pecking wounds on different parts of the body. Scores for these traits may describe problems of feather pecking, perch design and litter condition and cannibalistic or aggressive behaviours, respectively. There are important characteristics of a scoring system, such as the simplicity of the system for users to learn and to use at the same time being descriptive enough in details. This paper describes a scoring method for six body parts with regards to plumage condition, pecking wounds on comb and rear part of the body, and the condition of the foot with regards to bumble foot syndrome. The intention is that this system should be easy to use by scorers of different background, e.g. scientists, administrators, welfare inspectors, breeders and producer organizations. When used to the system, scoring a bird for all characters will not exceed 30 seconds for one person.