Effect of beak length on feed intake in pigeons (Columba livia f. domestica)
This study was undertaken to investigate the effect of beak length on feed intake with regard to animal welfare. The study involved two treatments groups; short beak pigeons (G-SB; n = 7) and normal beak pigeons (G-NB; n = 7) and was carried out in two consecutive trials. Daily feed consumption, meal length and behavioural traits such as aggressive pecking, preening, resting and locomotor activity were recorded under different feeding conditions. In Trial I the birds had free access to food material during a single feeding period each day, whereas in Trial II feeding was terminated when a pigeon from any of the groups that stopped eating first, moved towards water. It took a longer time for the pigeons in the G-SB group to consume the same amount of feed. Furthermore, the pigeons in G-SB were affected significantly in Trial II and lost bodyweight more compared to G-NB. Although no significant difference between the groups on frequency of aggressive pecking during feeding was found in Trial I, restricted feeding significantly increased the frequency of aggressive pecking in the G-SB group in Trial II. The results of the present study suggest that short beak, which is a side-effect of artificial selection for aesthetic purposes, can cause serious welfare problems under restricted environmental conditions.
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