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Bennewitz J.,Institute of Animal Husbandry and Breeding | Bogelein S.,Institute of Animal Husbandry and Breeding | Stratz P.,Institute of Animal Husbandry and Breeding | Rodehutscord M.,German Institute of Animal Nutrition | And 3 more authors.
Poultry Science | Year: 2014

Feather pecking and aggressive pecking is a well-known problem in egg production. In the present study, genetic parameters for 4 feather-pecking- related traits were estimated using generalized linear mixed models. The traits were bouts of feather pecking delivered (FPD), bouts of feather pecking received (FPR), bouts of aggressive pecking delivered (APD), and bouts of aggressive pecking received (APR). An F2-design was established from 2 divergent selected founder lines. The lines were selected for low or high feather pecking for 10 generations. The number of F2 hens was 910. They were housed in pens with around 40 birds. Each pen was observed in 21 sessions of 20 min, distributed over 3 consecutive days. An animal model was applied that treated the bouts observed within 20 min as repeated observations. An over-dispersed Poisson distribution was assumed for observed counts and the link function was a log link. The model included a random animal effect, a random permanent environment effect, and a random day-by-hen effect. Residual variance was approximated on the link scale by the delta method. The results showed a heritability around 0.10 on the link scale for FPD and APD and of 0.04 for APR. The heritability of FPR was zero. For all behavior traits, substantial permanent environmental effects were observed. The approximate genetic correlation between FPD and APD (FPD and APR) was 0.81 (0.54). Egg production and feather eating records were collected on the same hens as well and were analyzed with a generalized linear mixed model, assuming a binomial distribution and using a probit link function. The heritability on the link scale for egg production was 0.40 and for feather eating 0.57. The approximate genetic correlation between FPD and egg production was 0.50 and between FPD and feather eating 0.73. Selection might help to reduce feather pecking, but this might result in an unfavorable correlated selection response reducing egg production. Feather eating and feather pecking are genetically correlated and this needs further investigation. © 2014 Poultry Science Association Inc.

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