Send to

Choose Destination
Physiol Behav. 2009 Jun 22;97(3-4):470-5. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.03.021. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Effects of genetic group selection against mortality on behavior and peripheral serotonin in domestic laying hens with trimmed and intact beaks.

Author information

Adaptation Physiology Group, Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 338, 6700 AH, The Netherlands.


Severe feather pecking is a maladaptive behavior in laying hens that may result in cannibalism and ultimately death of the victims. Selection methods in which the genetic effect of an animal on the survival of its group members is taken into account, i.e. 'group selection', have been shown to be very effective in reducing mortality due to feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens. It has been suggested that fearfulness and serotonergic functioning are involved in the causation and development of feather pecking. We investigated effects of selection based on survivability in non-beak trimmed groups on fear-related behavior and peripheral 5-HT concentration and uptake in hens with trimmed or intact beaks, in a 2 x 2 factorial arrangement. Hens from the second generation of the low mortality line showed less fear-related behavior than control line hens. In addition, they displayed higher whole blood 5-HT concentrations and a lower platelet 5-HT uptake, indicating differences in functional activity of the 5-HT system. Beak trimming resulted in lowered levels of fear, and in a reduction of feather damage. Hens with trimmed and intact beaks did, however, not differ in peripheral 5-HT. The results imply that fearfulness and 5-HT activity are related to feather pecking without distinguishing between cause and effect. However, given that selection altered fear-related behaviors and peripheral 5-HT concentration and uptake, whereas beak trimming affected fearfulness and feather damage, but not 5-HT parameters, we suggest that peripheral 5-HT activity might reflect the predisposition to develop severe feather pecking under adverse conditions in laying hens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center