Laying hens selected for low mortality: Behaviour in tests of fearfulness, anxiety and cognition

Feather pecking and cannibalism in chickens can lead to injury or to death of the victims, and is thus a serious welfare and economic issue in modern poultry farming. A sib selection scheme has been initiated to genetically select a low mortality line (LML), which shows decreased mortality due to cannibalism compared to a control […]

Adrenal reactivity in lines of domestic fowl selected on feather pecking behavior

Domestic chicken lines of the White Leghorn layer type differing in their level of feather pecking have been developed by divergent selection specifically on feather pecking behavior. This paper describes an investigation of basal level, reactivity to manual restraint and maximal adrenal response to 1-24 ACTH in breeder birds of the sixth generation of selection […]

Breeding amiable animals? Improving farm animal welfare by including social effects in breeding programmes

Social interactions between individuals, such as co-operation and competition, are key factors in evolution by natural selection. As a consequence, evolutionary biologists have developed extensive theories to understand the consequences of social interactions for response to natural selection. Current genetic improvement programmes in animal husbandry, in contrast, largely ignore the implications of social interactions for […]

Staying good while playing god – the ethics of breeding farm animals

Modern genetics has given us some very efficient tools with which to alter the characteristics of animals. To date, farm animal breeders have mainly used these tools to increase productivity. Thus, each new generation of farm animals matures faster, yields more milk, or produces more meat or eggs, than the previous one. Despite these apparent […]

Perseveration in a guessing task by laying hens selected for high or low levels of feather pecking does not support classification of feather pecking as a stereotypy

Feather pecking is a behaviour by which birds damage or destroy the feathers of themselves (self-pecking) or other birds (allo feather pecking), in some cases even plucking out feathers and eating these. The self-pecking is rarely seen in domestic laying hens but is not uncommon in parrots. Feather pecking in laying hens has been described […]