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Br Poult Sci. 2010 Feb;51(1):12-21. doi: 10.1080/00071660903421159.

Environment and management factors affecting Pekin duck production and welfare on commercial farms in the UK.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, England, UK.


1. Forty-six flocks of commercially-reared Pekin ducks were studied in 23 houses differing in their ventilation and brooding systems, and water and feed resources, in order to identify factors affecting duck welfare in commercial practice. 2. A wide range of environmental variables were measured, together with the physical and plumage condition of the ducks at two ages, whilst companies supplied mortality and growth rate data. 3. At 23 d, more than 98% of ducks had clean eyes, nostrils and feathers and an upright posture, and 86% had no gait abnormalities. By 41 d, body condition had deteriorated slightly with 84% of ducks having clean eyes, 67% clean feathers and 79% no gait abnormalities. 4. Gait worsened with increasing temperature and litter moisture, and atmospheric ammonia concentrations. The incidence of foot pad lesions was 10% (moderate) and 3% (severe) and was positively correlated with increasing humidity and ammonia. 5. Average mortality rates were 52% for ducks reared to 335 kg at 48 d with average growth rates of 603 to 813 g/d. High temperatures correlated with high mortality and reduced growth rate; growth rate was not related to poor gait. 6. Controlling the ducks' environment, particularly temperature, humidity, litter moisture and ammonia is crucial to duck welfare. Effective ventilation systems, high quality straw and access to some form of open water were considered important for duck welfare.

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