Improvement in Feather cover
In addition to government policy Bristol work has had a major influence on industry policy and practice. University of Bristol has produced farmer-friendly technical information based on the research work described earlier in the form of manual and website (www.featherwel.org). This has been widely distributed by laying hen companies and farm assurance schemes. In 2013 the RSPCA updated its Welfare Standards for Laying Hens and included specific recommendations based on Bristol research such as better environmental enrichment, encouraging better use of the range and self assessment of featherloss. The RSPCA Freedom food scheme currently certifies more than 95% of UK production on non-cage laying hens i.e. approximately 50% of total UK production.
Since 2011, the AssureWel a collaboration between University of Bristol, Soil Association and RSPCA, has introduced routine monitoring and benchmarking of feather loss into laying hen certification schemes. Information on feather loss from 830 and 743 farms in Year 1 and Year 2 respectively showed a significant reduction in the prevalence of feather loss. Fifty-nine percent of 662 farmers reported they had made changes on their farms during Year 1 to improve bird welfare.
In 2015, a Bristol-led research team were awarded an EU Horizon 2020 grant called 'Hennovation'. The project aims to promote the spread of best practice amongst laying hen farmers in Europe on injurious pecking using the FeatherWel manual as an evidence-base for farmer’s potential innovations.