Using neuroscience to improve the health and welfare of laying hens

Published on Oct. 4, 2019

Using neuroscience to improve the health and welfare of laying hens

A multi-million European-wide project to improve the conditions of egg-laying chickens has launched today, coinciding with World Animal Day.

We are just 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 and help egg producers attain the best possible welfare standards for chickens. This project has received €3.9 million investment from the EU Marie Curie Fund.

Over the course of four years, 14 international studies, under the supervision of world experts in their fields, will be conducted to learn more about factors that contribute to stress response and resilience in poultry. The main goal of the project is to understand the stress response of chickens in various environments. A number of factors will be examined, including the impact of their housing system and feed program.

Dr. Tom Smulders from Newcastle University who is leading the project explained:

drtomsmulders.jpg

We will study how stress affects the brain and use this knowledge to identify best practice. We don’t know, for example, how the environment in which they are reared affects how well they adapt to the free-range systems they will be housed in in adulthood… These are the kind of welfare questions we want to answer with this project.

drtomsmulders.jpg
Dr. Tom Smulders
Newcastle University

A variety of methods will be used over the projects to measure stress responses and responsivity in laying hens, including markers in the brain (neurogenesis, different neurotransmitters), stress hormones, behavioral tests and observations, and health parameters.

Each project will involve a PhD student as part of the initiative to develop future scientific leaders. By working together with a range of experts, we are proud to be a part of this ambitious venture to maximize health and welfare of the birds in our care and throughout the industry.

Learn more about the projects

All partners:

Newcastle University

Institut de Recerca Biomèdica de Lleida - Fundació Dr. Pifarré (IRBLleida)

Universidad de Lleida

The University of St-Andrews

The Open University of Israel

Universitaet Bern

Scotland’s Rural College

Universiteit Utrecht

Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Eigen Vermogen -Instituut voor Landbouw en Visserijonderzoek

Hendrix Genetics Research, Technology & Services BV

Trinity College Dublin

Vencomatic Group BV

Noldus Information Technology BV

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

Linköpings Universitet

The Lakes Free Range Co. Ltd.

Universiteit Gent

Tel Aviv University

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