The use of sensor technology and genomics to breed for laying hens that show less damaging behaviour

T.B. Rodenburg*, J. Bennewitz, E.N. De Haas, L. Košťál, K. Pichová, D. Piette, J. Tetens, J. Van Der Eijk, B. Visser, E.D. Ellen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The European COST Action GroupHouseNet aims to provide synergy for preventing damaging behaviour in group-housed pigs and laying hens. One area of focus of this network is how genetic and genomic tools can be used to breed animals that are less likely to develop damaging behaviour to their pen-mates. When focussing on laying hens, one of the main problems is that feather pecking (FP) occurs in large groups, making it difficult to identify birds performing damaging behaviour. We propose a combination of sensor technology and genomic methods to solve this issue. Research on genetic lines selected divergently on high and low FP as well as on a F2 cross established from these lines has pointed to mechanisms that may underlie this behaviour, revealing relationships between FP, fearfulness and activity levels and locating genomic markers related with FP. Birds selected for high FP were found to be less fearful and highly active in a range of tests and home pen situations. This knowledge may be used to automatically detect high feather-pecking individuals in a group setting. Research on using novel methods such as ultra-wideband tracking to detect phenotypic differences between individuals in a group is ongoing. First results confirm previously found line differences in fearfulness and activity. Future work will focus on exploring potential of other sensor-based methods to accurately measure individual phenotypes, and linking this information to genomic markers. This should lead to the development of novel breeding methods to select against damaging behaviour in laying hens.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017
Event8th European Conference on Precision Livestock Farming, 2017 - Nantes, France
Duration: 12 Sep 201714 Sep 2017


Conference8th European Conference on Precision Livestock Farming, 2017


  • Damaging behaviour
  • Genomics
  • Laying hens
  • Sensor technology
  • Transcriptomics


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