Extensive human presence and regular gentle handling improve growth, survival and immune competence in ostrich chicks

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Pfunzo T. Muvhali, Maud Bonato, Anel Engelbrecht, Irek A. Malecki, Schalk W. P. Cloete
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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A total of 416 day-old ostrich chicks were randomly allocated to one of the three different husbandry practices for 3 months after hatch; HP1 (extensive human presence with gentle human voice, visual and gentle physical stimuli), HP2 (similar to HP1 but without physical stimuli) and S (human presence limited to supply of feed and water). Chick weight (kg) was measured at 6 and 12 weeks of age, while mortalities were recorded daily to calculate the survival rate. Finally, chicks’ antibody responses to vaccination against Newcastle disease (NCD) was measured using the Hemagglutination-Inhibition (HI) test at 20 weeks of age. While HP1 chicks were heavier and survived better to 6 weeks of age than HP2 and S chicks (p .05). Furthermore, HP1 chicks had an improved immune competence, as illustrated by their lower percentage of positive HI titers, compared to HP2 and S chicks (p < .05). Hence, integrating extensive human presence with positive human-chick interactions may assist in alleviating challenges related to chick rearing in the ostrich industry.


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