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Animals (Basel). 2020 Feb 9;10(2). pii: E269. doi: 10.3390/ani10020269.

Behavioural Variability in Chicks vs. the Pattern of Behaviour in Adult Hens.

Author information

1
Institute of Biological Basis of Animal Production, University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Akademicka 13, 20-950 Lublin, Poland.

Abstract

The aim of the study was to assess the behaviour of chicks of three different breeds of laying hens differing in the activity, emotional reactivity, and environmental preferences. Another objective was to answer the question whether the behavioural differences between adult birds would be evident already in the chick period or whether they are an effect of the further modifying impact of the environment. 60 green-legged partridge, 60 Polbar, and 60 Leghorn chicks were used in the experiments. The chicks hatched in a flock where hens were previously assessed with behavioural tests and the corticosterone levels in their feathers was determined, indicating significant differences in the temperament and stress level between the breeds. Five tests were carried out: two on competitiveness, activity, interest and fearfulness/curiosity. The experiments revealed considerable differences between the chicks. The Zk birds coped better with situations requiring swiftness and initiative. The Pb chicks were slower than Zk and Lg and did not make quick decisions. Hence, a lower number of these birds entering and leaving the test cage and staying inside was recorded. The Zk chicks exhibited a higher level of fearfulness than the other breeds. In terms of the environment enrichment elements, sand and woodchips were more attractive to the Zk chicks, whereas the Lg and Pb birds preferred pecking the string. No differences in the time of undertaking the analysed activities were found between the breeds.

KEYWORDS:

behavioural test; breed of laying hens; chick; temperament

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