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Animals 2016, 6(1), 2; doi:10.3390/ani6010002

Influences of Maternal Care on Chicken Welfare

1
School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford BS40 5DU, UK
2
School of Biology, University of St Andrews, Queens Terrace, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TS, UK
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: T. Bas Rodenburg and Christine J. Nicol
Received: 27 November 2015 / Revised: 22 December 2015 / Accepted: 30 December 2015 / Published: 5 January 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Poultry Welfare)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [405 KB, uploaded 5 January 2016]   |  

Abstract

In domestic chickens, the provision of maternal care strongly influences the behavioural development of chicks. Mother hens play an important role in directing their chicks’ behaviour and are able to buffer their chicks’ response to stressors. Chicks imprint upon their mother, who is key in directing the chicks’ behaviour and in allowing them to develop food preferences. Chicks reared by a mother hen are less fearful and show higher levels of behavioural synchronisation than chicks reared artificially. In a commercial setting, more fearful chicks with unsynchronised behaviour are more likely to develop behavioural problems, such as feather pecking. As well as being an inherent welfare problem, fear can also lead to panic responses, smothering, and fractured bones. Despite the beneficial effects of brooding, it is not commercially viable to allow natural brooding on farms and so chicks are hatched in large incubators and reared artificially, without a mother hen. In this review we cover the literature demonstrating the important features of maternal care in domestic chickens, the behavioural consequences of deprivation and the welfare implications on commercial farms. We finish by suggesting ways to use research in natural maternal care to improve commercial chick rearing practice. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; behaviour; chicken; domestic; hen; imprinting; laying; maternal; simulation; social learning animal welfare; behaviour; chicken; domestic; hen; imprinting; laying; maternal; simulation; social learning
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Edgar, J.; Held, S.; Jones, C.; Troisi, C. Influences of Maternal Care on Chicken Welfare. Animals 2016, 6, 2.

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