Staff Publications

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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    Chicken lines divergently selected on feather pecking differ in immune characteristics
    Eijk, Jerine A.J. van der; Verwoolde, Michel B. ; Vries Reilingh, Ger de; Jansen, Christine A. ; Rodenburg, Bas ; Lammers, Aart - \ 2019
    Physiology and Behavior 212 (2019). - ISSN 0031-9384
    Feather pecking - Immune system - Natural (auto)antibodies - Nitric oxide production - Specific antibodies

    It is crucial to identify whether relations between immune characteristics and damaging behaviors in production animals exist, as these behaviors reduce animal welfare and productivity. Feather pecking (FP) is a damaging behavior in chickens, which involves hens pecking and pulling at feathers of conspecifics. To further identify relationships between the immune system and FP we characterized high FP (HFP) and low FP (LFP) selection lines with regard to nitric oxide (NO) production by monocytes, specific antibody (SpAb) titers, natural (auto)antibody (N(A)Ab) titers and immune cell subsets. NO production by monocytes was measured as indicator for innate pro-inflammatory immune functioning, SpAb titers were measured as part of the adaptive immune system and N(A)Ab titers were measured as they play an essential role in both innate and adaptive immunity. Immune cell subsets were measured to identify whether differences in immune characteristics were reflected by differences in the relative abundance of immune cell subsets. Divergent selection on FP affected NO production by monocytes, SpAb and N(A)Ab titers, but did not affect immune cell subsets. The HFP line showed higher NO production by monocytes and higher IgG N(A)Ab titers compared to the LFP line. Furthermore the HFP line tended to have lower IgM NAAb titers, but higher IgM and IgG SpAb titers compared to the LFP line. Thus, divergent selection on FP affects the innate and adaptive immune system, where the HFP line seems to have a more responsive immune system compared to the LFP line. Although causation cannot be established in the present study, it is clear that relationships between the immune system and FP exist. Therefore, it is important to take these relationships into account when selecting on behavioral or immunological traits.

    Stress response, peripheral serotonin and natural antibodies in feather pecking genotypes and phenotypes and their relation with coping style
    Eijk, Jerine A.J. van der; Lammers, Aart ; Kjaer, J.B. ; Rodenburg, T.B. - \ 2019
    Physiology and Behavior 199 (2019). - ISSN 0031-9384 - p. 1 - 10.
    Feather pecking - genotype - natural antibody - phenotype - serotonin - stress response

    Feather pecking (FP), a serious welfare and economic issue in the egg production industry, has been related to coping style. Proactive and reactive coping styles differ in, among others, the stress response, serotonergic activity and immune activity. Yet, it is unknown whether genetic lines divergently selected on FP (i.e. FP genotypes) or individuals differing in FP (i.e. FP phenotypes) can be categorized into coping styles. Therefore, we determined peripheral serotonin (5-HT) levels, natural antibody (NAb) titers, behavioral and corticosterone (CORT) responses to manual restraint (MR) in FP genotypes (high FP (HFP), low FP (LFP) and unselected control (CON) line) and FP phenotypes (feather pecker, feather pecker-victim, victim and neutral). We further examined the consistency of and relationships between behavioral and physiological measures. FP genotypes differed in behavioral responses to MR, 5-HT levels and NAb titers, but not in CORT levels after MR. HFP birds had less active responses at adolescent age, but more active responses at adult age compared to LFP and CON birds. The CON line had higher 5-HT levels at adolescent age, while the HFP line had lower 5-HT levels than the other lines at adult age. Overall, the HFP line had lower IgM NAb titers, while the LFP line had lower IgG NAb titers compared to the other lines. FP phenotypes differed in behavioral responses to MR and 5-HT levels, but not in CORT levels after MR or NAb titers. Within the HFP line, feather peckers tended to have less active responses compared to neutrals at adolescent age, while victims had more active responses compared to the other phenotypes at adult age. Feather peckers had higher 5-HT levels than neutrals at adult age. Behavioral and CORT responses to MR were not consistent over time, suggesting that responses to MR might not reflect coping style in this study. Furthermore, proactive behavioral responses were correlated with reactive physiological measures and vice versa. Thus, it was not possible to categorize FP genotypes or FP phenotypes into specific coping styles.

    Where in the serotonergic system does it go wrong? Unravelling the route by which the serotonergic system affects feather pecking in chickens
    Haas, Elske N. de; Eijk, Jerine A.J. van der - \ 2018
    Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 95 (2018). - ISSN 0149-7634 - p. 170 - 188.
    5-HT receptors - Anxiety - Coping style - Dopamine - Feather pecking - Laying hen chickens - Maladaptive - Malfunctioning - Monoamine oxidase - Serotonin - Tryptophan

    A deficient serotonergic system is associated with psychopathological behaviors in various species, among which, feather pecking (FP) in chickens. Deficiency in the serotonergic system can predispose birds to develop FP, while the serotonergic system is affected in birds that feather peck. Serotonin (5-HT) can further influence dopamine (DA) activity. Lines with high FP tendency generally have low central 5-HT and DA turnovers at a young age, but high turnovers at an adult age in brain areas involved in somato-motor regulation and goal-directed behavior. Agonizing 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptors increases FP, while antagonizing D2 receptor reduces FP. Genetic associations exist between FP, 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptor functioning and metabolism of 5-HT and DA. Birds with deficient functioning of the somatodendritic 5-HT1A autoreceptor and 5-HT metabolism appear predisposed to develop FP. Birds which feather peck often eat feathers, have low whole-blood 5-HT, different gut-microbiota composition and immune competence compared to non-peckers. FP and feather eating likely affect the interaction between gut microbiota, immune system and serotonergic system, but this needs further investigation.

    Feather pecking genotype and phenotype affect behavioural responses of laying hens
    Eijk, Jerine A.J. van der; Lammers, Aart ; Li, Peiyun ; Kjaer, Joergen B. ; Rodenburg, T.B. - \ 2018
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 205 (2018). - ISSN 0168-1591 - p. 141 - 150.
    Activity - Coping style - Fearfulness - Feather pecking - Genotype - Phenotype

    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.

    A role for plasma aromatic amino acids in injurious pecking behavior in laying hens
    Birkl, Patrick ; Franke, Leonora ; Rodenburg, Bas ; Ellen, Esther ; Harlander-Matauschek, Alexandra - \ 2017
    Physiology and Behavior 175 (2017). - ISSN 0031-9384 - p. 88 - 96.
    Aggression - Aromatic amino acid - Feather pecking - Laying hen - Social group

    Injurious pecking, including feather pecking (FP), is one of the most prevalent causes of mortality for commercial laying hens. The underlying biological mechanisms of FP are not yet fully understood, but they could be related to alterations in the serotonin (5-HT) and/or dopamine (DA) circuits within the brain. In the past, the central synthesis of 5-HT and DA was found to be influenced by the availability of their precursors, aromatic amino acids (AAA) such as tryptophan (TRP), phenylalanine (PHE), and tyrosine (TYR), in blood plasma, which are transported across the blood-brain-barrier into the brain. Because knowledge about plasma levels of AAA in laying hens is very limited, the present study compared the AAA profiles of a large sample of laying hens from two genetic lines: one selected for low mortality (LM) due to injurious pecking (n=129 birds) and one high production line (HP) selected for high egg-production only (n=132 birds). Head, comb, and feather covering were scored at the end of the experiment. Blood samples were collected at weeks 24 and 29 of age and were analysed for AAA using high performance liquid chromatography. Neither FP nor feather damage was observed in the present study, but aggressive pecking directed at the head/neck area occurred in several groups with an onset of this aberrant behavior between weeks 22 and 29. Eight HP pens and seven LM pens were affected by severe head/comb injuries inflicted via aggressive pecking. Therefore, our exploratory data analysis focused upon the possible interplay between the variability of our outcome measures (absolute levels of AAA in plasma as well as the ratios PHE/TYR and TRP/(PHE+TYR)) and the aggressive head/comb pecking as an expression of social stress within the pens. We found significantly lower TRP availability relative to PHE and TYR (TRP/(PHE+TYR) ratio) and higher TYR concentrations at week 24 in pens with an early onset of injurious aggressive behavior at weeks 22–23. This was most pronounced in the LM line, but at week 29, TRP availability normalized in both lines. It was furthermore evident that in LM birds, higher aggressive pecking activity per pen was associated with higher TYR levels (n=78 birds, r=0.643, p<0.001) and lower TRP/(PHE+TYR) ratios at week 24 (r=−0.541, p<0.001). In the HP birds, these associations were of lower strength and were negatively correlated (TYR: n=73, r=−0.308, p=0.005; TRP/(PHE/TYR) ratio: r=0.314, p=0.004). Our findings indicate that in LM birds, lower TRP availability at week 24 may be attributable to higher stress levels in pens where injurious aggressive pecking developed early on. These findings may lay the important groundwork for the analysis of AAA plasma levels as a useful avenue of research to investigate underlying physiological mechanisms of behavioral problems in laying hens.

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