The propensity to develop feather pecking (FP) has a genetic component and has been related to fear responses in laying hens. A convenient test measuring the fear response might therefore be used to identify hens with a stronger propensity to develop FP. However, genetic origin and age can influence the relation between fear response and FP. The present study investigated the use of a novel object test in the home cage as predictor of FP in six lines of laying hens from Rhode Island Red origin and six lines from White Leghorn origin at adult age. Incidence of FP was assessed by scoring feather damage at back, rump and belly at 35, 43, 51, 63 and 69 weeks of age. A novel object test, measuring fear response to a rod, was performed at 23, 46 and 69 weeks of age. For RIR lines, a stronger fear response at 23 weeks was related to decreased feather damage at 51 weeks and for both RIR and WL lines stronger fear responses at 46 weeks were related to increased feather damage at 51 weeks. These results suggest that the relation between FP and fear response differs between ages and between Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn lines.
- fear-related behavior
- environmental factors
- pecking behavior
- different ages
Uitdehaag, K. A., Komen, J., Rodenburg, T. B., Kemp, B., & van Arendonk, J. A. M. (2008). The novel object test as predictor of feather damage in cage-housed Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn laying hens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 109(2-4), 292-305. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2007.03.008