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Prenatal and Early Postnatal Behavioural Programming in Laying Hens, With Possible Implications for the Development of Injurious Pecking

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisReviewForskningpeer review


  • Elske N. De Haas, Utrecht University, Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture
  • ,
  • Ruth C. Newberry, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
  • ,
  • Joanne Edgar, Bristol Veterinary School
  • ,
  • Anja B. Riber
  • Inma Estevez, NEIKER, Ikerbasque Basque Foundation for Science
  • ,
  • Valentina Ferrante, University of Milan
  • ,
  • Carlos E. Hernandez, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • ,
  • Joergen B. Kjaer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute
  • ,
  • Sezen Ozkan, Ege University
  • ,
  • Ivan Dimitrov, National Center for Agrarian Science
  • ,
  • T. Bas Rodenburg, Utrecht University
  • ,
  • Andrew M. Janczak, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Injurious pecking (IP) represents a serious concern for the welfare of laying hens (Gallus gallus domesticus). The risk of IP among hens with intact beaks in cage-free housing prompts a need for solutions based on an understanding of underlying mechanisms. In this review, we explore how behavioural programming via prenatal and early postnatal environmental conditions could influence the development of IP in laying hens. The possible roles of early life adversity and mismatch between early life programming and subsequent environmental conditions are considered. We review the role of maternal stress, egg conditions, incubation settings (temperature, light, sound, odour) and chick brooding conditions on behavioural programming that could be linked to IP. Brain and behavioural development can be programmed by prenatal and postnatal environmental conditions, which if suboptimal could lead to a tendency to develop IP later in life, as we illustrate with a Jenga tower that could fall over if not built solidly. If so, steps taken to optimise the environmental conditions of previous generations and incubation conditions, reduce stress around hatching, and guide the early learning of chicks will aid in prevention of IP in commercial laying hen flocks.

TidsskriftFrontiers in Veterinary Science
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
Funding. This article was based upon work in the COST Action CA15134?Synergy for preventing damaging behaviour in group housed pigs and chickens (GroupHouseNet), supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology www.cost.eu).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 De Haas, Newberry, Edgar, Riber, Estevez, Ferrante, Hernandez, Kjaer, Ozkan, Dimitrov, Rodenburg and Janczak.

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