Can short-term frustration facilitate feather pecking in laying hens?

T.B. Rodenburg, P. Koene, E.A.M. Bokkers, M.E.H. Bos, K.A. Uitdehaag, B.M. Spruijt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Feather pecking is a major problem in laying hens. Frustration, i.e. the omission of expected reward, may play a role in the development of feather pecking. In two experiments, we studied if feather pecking could be facilitated by short-term frustration in birds with a high feather pecking phenotype and victims of feather pecking (experiment 1), and in birds with a high or low feather pecking genotype (experiment 2). Furthermore, the motivation to peck a key for a food reward was assessed in birds with a high or low feather pecking genotype in experiment 3, as birds that have a stronger motivation may also react stronger to the omission of a reward. We trained birds to peck a key for a food reward in an automated Skinnerbox and tested them in control and frustration sessions. During frustration, the feeder was covered with Perspex. Frustration did not facilitate feather pecking in either experiment. In experiment 1, birds with a high feather pecking phenotype did show more gentle feather pecking and aggressive pecking than victims of feather pecking during some of the control sessions. Furthermore, victims of feather pecking vocalised more than birds with a high feather pecking phenotype. In experiment 2, birds with a high feather pecking genotype scratched more than birds with a low feather pecking genotype, indicating differences in motivation for foraging or dust-bathing behaviour, which shows a relation to feather pecking. Birds with a low feather pecking genotype also had a stronger motivation to peck at a key for a food reward than birds with a high feather pecking genotype. No evidence was found that feather pecking could be facilitated by short-term frustration in a Skinnerbox. However, differences in reaction to frustration and in motivation to peck a key for a food reward in birds with a high or low feather pecking phenotype or genotype indicate that frustration may still play a role in the development of feather pecking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-101
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume91
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Keywords

  • gallus-gallus-domesticus
  • induced aggression
  • different ages
  • behavior
  • chicks
  • fowl
  • line
  • heritability
  • cannibalism
  • food

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