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Neonatal handling of Amazon parrots alters the stress response and immune function

By J. C. Collette, J. R. Millam, K. C. Klasing, P. S. Wakenell

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Abstract

The influence of neonatal handling on behaviour and immune function was assessed in Orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica). Chicks (n=11) were gently handled daily from 25 days of age until 38 days post-fledging, while control chicks (n=9) were not handled. At 10 days post-fledging (approx. 66 days of age), chicks were given tests to evaluate tameness (e.g., willingness to perch on an offered finger). They were then restrained for 10 min, either by being held while perching (handled group) or, because they would not perch, by being restrained in a towel (non-handled group). Serum corticosterone levels were measured and immune status was assessed by: the delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to phytohaemagglutinin-P (PH-P) injection; the humoral response to a killed Newcastle disease virus (NDV) challenge; and heterophil:lymphocyte ratio (H:L). Handled chicks were tamer by all measures of tameness. DTH was greater in non-handled chicks (P<=0.002), as were serum corticosterone levels (Wilcoxon, P<=0.05), while NDV antibody titres were possibly reduced (P<=0.09). H:L ratios did not differ. It is concluded that handling conditioned the birds to be held in a manner that appeared not to be stressful. The greater DTH response of non-handled chicks suggests that either their DTH response was enhanced by the acute stress of being restrained in a towel, and/or the DTH response of handled chicks was suppressed as a result of the repeated physiological stress from handling during the neonatal period. In either event, handling produced differences in response to types of restraint that would be typically encountered in the husbandry of Amazons in captivity.

Date 2000
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 66
Issue 4
Pages 335-349
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(99)00098-2
Language English
Author Address Department of Avian Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8521, USA.
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Tags
  1. Amazon
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal immunology
  4. Animal physiology
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Birds
  7. Glucocorticoids
  8. Handling
  9. Immune response
  10. Immunity reactions
  11. Immunological reactions
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Pets and companion animals
  14. restraint of animals
  15. Stress
  16. Stress response
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  1. peer-reviewed