No guts, no glory: effects of early-life microbiota on behavioural development in layer chicks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


There is increasing evidence that composition of the gut microbiota during early life affects behavioural development of animals. In rodents, individuals raised in a germ-free environment were shown to be less anxious than control individuals. To date, these mechanisms have hardly been studied in laying hens, yet hold great promise from the perspective of optimizing early-life conditions to favour behavioural development. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of the early-life microbiota on fearfulness and sociality in layer chicks. Fourteen pens of 12 LSL layer chicks were used for the experiment. Antibiotics were used to manipulate the microbiota. Seven pens received a cocktail of antibiotics through their drinking water during the first three weeks of life, seven pens received drinking water without antibiotics. Birds were subjected to a novel object test and an open-field test to measure fearfulness and a density related permanence test to measure sociality. At the end of week 3, faecal samples were collected to quantify the effect of the antibiotics treatment on microbiota. Data were analysed using a mixed model with treatment as fixed factor and pen nested in treatment as a random factor. No effects of antibiotics treatment were found on response to the novel object or behaviour in the open-field, providing no evidence that the antibiotics treatment affected fearfulness. However, antibiotics-treated birds received higher scores in the density related permanence test (0.91 ± 0.52 versus -0.55 ± 0.49; P
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Benelux ISAE conference 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventBenelux ISAE conference 2014, Eersel, The Netherlands -
Duration: 8 Oct 2014 → …


ConferenceBenelux ISAE conference 2014, Eersel, The Netherlands
Period8/10/14 → …


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