Laying hens with poor feather cover eat more feed, are less productive and have higher levels of morbidity and mortality. This welfare and sustainability issue is complex and requires a proactive, multi-pronged approach. The aim of this UK study was to test a support approach for commercial implementation and uptake of evidence-based strategies aimed at reducing injurious pecking (IP) in 29 flocks of free range (FR), aviary and enriched cages (EC). This was accomplished by using Motivational Interviewing (MI) to facilitate farmer ownership over maintaining feather cover by co-developing bespoke Feather Cover Action Plans (FCAP). Recruitment included farmers with initial ranges of attitudes from not regarding IP as a priority, to engaged first adopters. The MI approach resulted in 80% of farmers making changes to their management and resource provision, with 90% of farmers of (FR) and half of those using (EC) making changes. Up to 9 actions were implemented from their FCAP (average 3 on FR farms) and 67% of all planned changes had been achieved on average 9 months later. While some changes were inexpensive and durable, such as providing rope or plastic objects, others were capital investments like verandas, planting trees, renewing and strategically placing artificial shelters, frequently replenishing lucerne, removing capped litter plus adding pecking rings in enriched cages. Reflecting on the value of their FCAP, farmers recognised that being part of the project not only raised their awareness of IP and the importance of maintaining good feather cover but also motivated them to make changes. They recognised the value of the facilitator and noted that successful outcomes gave incentive to make further progress. Half the farmers felt their FCAP had been successful in reducing IP within their flocks. This approach therefore has potential to improve both the sustainability of egg production and hen welfare.
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