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Mccrea, Kirste Colleen, 2020. The effect of early environment on the adaptability of chicks : exploring cognitive aspects. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health



Due to the many challenges that laying hens face throughout their lives in the
production system, raising hens with the ability to adapt and cope within their
environment is vital from both a welfare and production standpoint. The early
environment of chicks has been shown to have lasting effects on the health and well
being of laying hens later in life. However, few studies have investigated the effects
of early environment and adaptability. This study investigated cognitive functions
and learning capabilities, which are pivotal in developing adaptation skills, of 48
laying hens at the age of 9-14 weeks using a holeboard test. Hens were raised in
differing environments over two periods of rearing: early rearing from 0-4 weeks of
age and current rearing from 5-15 weeks of age. The treatments consisted of choice
of substrate and perch (four types of each) vs. no choice of substrate or perch (i.e.
one type of each), which was changed between the two rearing periods for half of the
birds, resulting in four different treatments i.e. choice/choice (CC), choice/no-choice
(CN), no-choice/no-choice (NN), and no-choice/choice (NC). When habituating
individually to the holeboard test, birds from treatment CC found more worms than
those from treatments NN and CN (p=0.004; p=0.03). During acquisition, a
significantly higher number of birds from CC and NC completed the start trials
when compared to NN and CN birds (p=0.04). Furthermore, results from the
reversal phase indicated that NC birds had a higher reference memory than NN
birds. Overall these results suggest that having choice in the current rearing
environment influenced the birds’ success in the holeboard test, which may in turn
be directly related the their ability to adapt to new environments and circumstances.
Supplementary studies into the critical stage of early rearing and when choice is
best suited to be introduced may provide further insights into the role that choice
plays on the adaptability of laying hens.

Main title:The effect of early environment on the adaptability of chicks
Subtitle:exploring cognitive aspects
Authors:Mccrea, Kirste Colleen
Supervisor:Keeling, Linda and Skånberg, Lena
Examiner:Wichman, Anette
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2020
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:None
Supervising department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Keywords:adaptability, choice, early environment, environmental complexity, holeboard, poultry, spatial cognition
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Animal husbandry
Deposited On:12 May 2021 08:31
Metadata Last Modified:13 May 2021 01:00

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