UFAW-funded Animal Welfare Student Scholarship could lead to welfare benefits for laying hens

17 March 2021

UFAW student scholar Rosa Schimmel, who undertook an internship at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Utrecht, was awarded an Animal Welfare Student Scholarship in 2020.  She chose laying hens for her scholarship subject, investigating the effects of light during the incubation period of the hens on gentle and severe feather pecking.

The aim of Rosa’s research was to study the effect of a green light-dark cycle during incubation and the administration of food in a puzzle as enrichment on gentle and severe feather pecking.  On her choice of project, Rosa said: “Feather pecking in laying hens has repeatedly been reported as a welfare issue and since beak trimming has recently been banned in the Netherlands, other solutions must be found.  Severe feather pecking is a harmful pecking behaviour that is a threat to the welfare of laying hens because it causes pain by damaging the skin and may even lead to cannibalism.  However, gentle feather pecking is a social behaviour which is already present one day after hatching.”

Rosa’s supervisor Professor Bas Rodenburg, Professor of Animal Welfare at Utrecht University said: “Rosa adapted very well to working from home because of the COVID-19, and performed a good internship.  Throughout the analysis process, Rosa put great efforts in the statistics.  She did not settle for basic tests and thoroughly looked for the right method, asking help from skilled persons.  At the end of her internship, Rosa provided us with an excellent and clear hand-out of her data (literature, raw data, results, statistics, report and presentation), which will be used as an example to follow for the new students.”

Through its Animal Welfare Student Scholarships, UFAW aims to encourage students to develop their interests in animal welfare and to provide them with an opportunity to conduct relevant research or educational projects that are likely to lead to substantial improvements in animal welfare.

The first UFAW Animal Welfare Student Scholarships were awarded in 1983 and since the scheme began there have been over 350 scholars.  The range of projects that have been undertaken has been very wide and in many cases scholars have published papers arising from their work in scientific literature (which we encourage). Other scholars have gone on to undertake postgraduate research in aspects of animal welfare. UFAW encourages its past scholars to keep in touch and to remain part of the UFAW team actively promoting animal welfare.

Image: Credit:  Rosa Schimmel