Patrick Birkl

Ph.D. Candidate

Patrick Birkl is completing his Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Alexandra Harlander, studying feather pecking in laying hens. He grew up in St. Anton, a Ski resort in the Arlberg region of the Austrian Alps, and is a passionate skier. Patrick did a BSc in Biotechnology at the Management Centre Innsbruck (MCI), during which he visited the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, where he developed his thesis. After that Patrick did a MSc program in Zoology at the University of Innsbruck. In his master's thesis he dealt with the influence of maternal care on behaviour and welfare of chicks. It was during this project that Patrick decided to continue his research on poultry. This sparked his interest in the University of Guelph and Dr. Harlander's research on feather pecking in laying hens. Patrick was fascinated by research related to this topic, as global hen numbers reach 5 billion individuals annually and result in the death of hundreds of millions of birds due to feather pecking. Despite over 50 years of research to alleviate this problem, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood and no practical solution has emerged. Patrick's research focus was therefore on understanding the mechanisms for feather-pecking behaviour in laying hens. His hope is that through a better understanding of the underlying causes and how they interact, suggestions can be made on how to improve measurements that prevent feather pecking in practice. With these findings, there is the potential to benefit the welfare of a vast number of birds.