Effects of Maternal Care During Rearing in White Leghorn and Brown Nick Layer Hens on Cognition, Sociality and Fear
Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia
Behavior and Welfare in Farm Animals Research Group, Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, 3584CL Utrecht, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 5 July 2019 / Accepted: 15 July 2019 / Published: 18 July 2019
Chickens raised to lay eggs are housed from hatch in groups of animals of the same age, and without maternal care from a broody hen. There are several hybrid lines of hens used in egg farming, each of which show their own behavioral profile. Both the presence (or absence) of a mother hen and genetics may affect cognition, social interactions and fear. In this study, we showed that in our tests, genetics have a strong effect on fear and sociality. Maternal care had very little effect on any of the tests used. The strong effect of genetic background highlights that changes made to increase welfare need to consider the genetics of the chicken in question. The lack of effect of maternal care may indicate that breeds of chickens used in current farming practices were inadvertently selected to respond very little to maternal care.