Individual differences in personality in laying hens are related to learning a colour cue association

Elske N. de Haas, Caroline Lee, Carlos E. Hernandez, Marc Naguib, Bas Rodenburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Personality can influence how animals perceive and learn cues. The behaviour and physiological responses animals show during stressful events is indicative of their personality. Acute induced stress prior to a cognitive test are known to affect the judgement of a stimulus, but personality of an individual could also affect learning of a specific cognitive paradigm. Here, we assessed if adult laying hens’ behaviour and physiological responses, as indicators of their personality, were related to their cognitive performance. We assessed their behavioural responses to a tonic immobility test, an open field test, and a manual restraint test, and measured plasma corticosterone levels after manual restraint. After that, hens (n = 20) were trained in a pre-set training schedule to associate a colour-cue with a reward. In a two-choice go–go test, hens needed to choose between a baited or non-baited food container displayed randomly on the left or right side of an arena. Success in learning was related to personality, with better performance of hens which showed a reactive personality type by a long latency to walk, struggle or vocalize during the tests. Only eight out of 20 hens reached the training criteria. The non-learners showed a strong side preference during all training days. Side preferences were strong in hens with high levels of plasma corticosterone and with a long duration of tonic immobility, indicating that fearful, stress-sensitive hens are more prone to develop side biases. Our results show that learning can be hindered by side biases, and fearful animals with a more proactive personality type are more sensitive to develop such biases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-42
JournalBehavioural Processes
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Affective state
  • Cognition
  • Fearfulness
  • Lateralization
  • Personality
  • Side preference


Dive into the research topics of 'Individual differences in personality in laying hens are related to learning a colour cue association'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this