The impact of early structural enrichment on spatial cognition in layer chicks

Kate Norman, Jessie Adriaense, Christine Nicol

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

12 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of the study was to determine whether early access to elevated structures affects spatial navigational abilities. Ninety six day-old chicks were reared in 16 pens. Eight pens were provided with A-frame perches with an attached platform and a ramp. Eight pens had no elevated structures. At 14-15 days of age 48 chicks were tested in a battery of navigational tasks: a detour test, jump test and rotated floor test (RFT). The remaining 48 chicks received the same tests at 28-29 days of age. Chicks reared with elevated structures were faster at completing the detour test (P=0.045). Older chicks were more likely to turn left in the detour test (p=0.013) and were more successful in the jump test (69% vs 31% completion, p=0.001). There was no treatment effect on use of intra or extra maze cues in the RFT, but the proportion of chicks using intra-maze cues declined between the first (0.76) and second (0.43) repeat of the RFT (p=0.038), particularly for chicks reared with elevated structures. We conclude that bird age or developmental stage may have a predominant influence on spatial navigation and physical ability, but early experience of elevated structures had some mediating effects which require further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date8 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Layer chicks
  • Structural enrichment
  • Spatial cognition
  • Rearing experience


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