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Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 539166
Title Feather pecking genotype and phenotype affect behavioural responses of laying hens
Author(s) Eijk, Jerine A.J. van der; Lammers, Aart; Li, Peiyun; Kjaer, Joergen B.; Rodenburg, T.B.
Source Applied Animal Behaviour Science 205 (2018). - ISSN 0168-1591 - p. 141 - 150.
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2018.05.027
Department(s) Behavioural Ecology
WIAS
Adaptation Physiology
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2018
Availibility Full text available from 2019-06-01
Keyword(s) Activity - Coping style - Fearfulness - Feather pecking - Genotype - Phenotype
Abstract

Feather pecking (FP) is a major welfare and economic issue in the egg production industry. Behavioural characteristics, such as fearfulness, have been related to FP. However, it is unknown how divergent selection on FP affects fearfulness in comparison to no selection on FP. Therefore, we compared responses of birds selected on low (LFP) and high feather pecking (HFP) with birds from an unselected control line (CON) to several behavioural tests (i.e. novel object (NO), novel environment (NE), open field (OF) and tonic immobility (TI)) at young and adult ages. Furthermore, the relation between actual FP behaviour (i.e. FP phenotypes) and fearfulness is not well understood. Therefore, we compared responses of birds with differing FP phenotypes. Feather pecking phenotypes of individual birds were identified via FP observations at several ages. The number of severe feather pecks given and received was used to categorize birds as feather peckers, feather pecker-victims, victims or neutrals. Here we show that HFP birds repeatedly had more active responses (i.e. they approached a NO sooner, vocalized sooner and more, showed more flight attempts and had shorter TI durations), which could indicate lower fearfulness, compared to CON and LFP birds at both young and adult ages. Within the HFP line, feather peckers had more active responses (i.e. they tended to show more flight attempts compared to victims and tended to walk more compared to neutrals), suggesting lower fearfulness, compared to victims and neutrals. Thus, in this study high FP seems to be related to low fearfulness, which is opposite to what previously has been found in other experimental and commercial lines. This stresses the need for further research into the genetic and phenotypic correlations between FP and fearfulness in various populations of chickens, especially in commercial lines. Findings from experimental lines should be used with caution when developing control and/or prevention methods that are to be applied in commercial settings. Furthermore, activity and/or coping style might overrule fearfulness within the HFP line, as HFP birds and feather peckers within the HFP line had more active responses. This might indicate a complex interplay between fearfulness, activity and coping style that could play a role in the development of FP.

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