Influences of Maternal Care on Chicken Welfare

Joanne Edgar, Suzanne D E Held, Charlotte Jones, Camille Troisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
440 Downloads (Pure)

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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages12
JournalAnimals
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • animal welfare
  • behaviour
  • chicken
  • domestic
  • hen
  • imprinting
  • laying
  • maternal
  • simulation
  • social learning

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Influences of Maternal Care on Chicken Welfare'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this