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Play ontogeny in young chickens is affected by domestication and early stress

By August 9th, 2022September 20th, 2022No Comments

Document type: scientific article published in Scientific Reports

Authors: Lundén Gabrielle, Oscarsson Rebecca, Hedlund Louise, Gjøen Johanna, Jensen Per


Preview: Play is common in young homeotherm animals and has an important role as a tentative indicator of positive states of welfare. Furthermore, during domestication play is believed to have increased in frequency in several species as part of the domestication syndrome. Here, we studied the ontogeny of play in chickens in two experiments. The first compared the behavioural development between domesticated White Leghorn (WL) laying hen chicks and ancestral Red Junglefowl (RJF) and the second compared the same between WL chicks that had experienced the stress of commercial hatchery routines and a control group, hatched under calm conditions. In both experiments, 10 groups of four chicks each from each of the groups were moved twice per week to an enriched and fully enclosed play arena, starting at day 8 and finishing day 39 or 53 after hatch. In the arena, the frequency of play behaviours was recorded during 30 min and divided into object, locomotory and social play. In experiment one, total play as well as object play was significantly more common in WL whereas locomotor and social play was more common in RJF. In experiment two, total play was significantly more frequent in commercially hatched chicks, despite that none of the sub-categories differed significantly between the groups. In conclusion, domestication as well as early stress does affect the occurrence of play in chickens, but the effects are complex and require further research.

Publication resulting in an article in Watt Poultry on September 6, 2022: Encouraging chick play could improve broiler welfare

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From the Scientific Reports website