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Published on June 22, 2020

Chicken stress using neuroscience to improve the health and welfare of laying hens

Hendrix Genetics is one of 20 partners working together as part of The ChickenStress European Training Network (ETN)

This project will train future leaders in a range of scientific studies of poultry stress responsivity in various environments, including the impact of their housing system and feed program on health and welfare.

The aim of the project is to provide information on the best welfare conditions that enable optimum egg production of laying hens. This will be accomplished by an international team of 14 PhD students, based in 12 institutions who will engage in multidisciplinary projects, under the supervision of world experts in their fields.

Through the 14 doctorates, the ChickenStress project aims to find out how the stress response is regulated in the bird’s brain. And how genetics, the early living environment, and the current living environment of the laying hen can reduce chronic stress. It is known that genetic differences exist in stress sensitivity and adaptive capacity, for instance between white and brown hybrids. For example, white hybrids are flightier and more fearful than brown hybrids.

Furthermore, environmental factors can play an important role in determining a flock’s stress sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Here, the parental environment can play a role as well as incubation conditions, the rearing environment, and finally, the laying environment.

Another project focuses on free range chickens and their living conditions. To what extent is the correlation between hatching egg conditions and the first rearing phase on the health and welfare of chickens in a free range environment? And can we use neurobiological markers to measure how both early and later living conditions influence the chicken’s stress resistance?

At this moment there are still more questions than answers, and so we will keep you updated on the project’s findings in the coming years via our communication channels

The ChickenStress project aims to find out how the stress response is regulated in the bird’s brain.

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