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Dustbathing and feather pecking in domestic chickens reared with and without access to sand

By G. Norgaard-Nielsen

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Eight groups of 10 female white Leghorn chicks were kept in wire floor cages from 1 day old. From 2 days of age four of the groups had continuous access to a wooden tray with dark dry sand, while the other groups had a wooden frame of the same size but without sand. Low intensity light (10 lux) was on for 16 h each day, but intensity was raised daily to 250 lux after 5 h for 1.5 h, to facilitate release of the birds dust bathing behaviour. Birds were observed during the first hour with high intensity light. No significant difference in the dust bathing activity was seen between birds with and without access to sand. There was a tendency for more feather pecks to be directed at the feathers of cage mates by the birds without sand compared to the birds with access to sand (P=0.057). Time lapse video recordings during the light hours revealed that birds with no access to sand showed less bouts of dust bathing activity (P0.05). A plumage scoring at 41 days of age showed that birds without sand had a significantly deteriorated plumage (P=0.014). The chicks were thereafter all given continuous access to sand for one or six days. Following one or two days of deprivation, the chicks were then tested by giving them access to sand. The chicks reared without sand performed more vertical wing-shakes compared to the chicks reared with sand (p0.001). No significant differences were revealed in latency to dust bathing as well as feather pecking. It is concluded that lack of access to sand during early rearing leads to less bouts of dust bathing behaviour during the first three weeks of life and increased plumage deterioration. When later given access to sand no effect was found on feather pecking during dust bathing or ability to perform normal dust bathing as such but a rebound effect was seen on the intensity of dust bathing, suggesting that a build-up of dust bathing motivation had taken place during rearing without sand.

Date 1997
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 52
Issue 1/2
Pages 99-108
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(96)01142-2
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Science and Animal Health, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, 13 Bulowsvej, DK-1870, Frederiksberg C (Copenhagen), Denmark.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Abnormal behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal roles
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Birds
  6. Chickens
  7. Development
  8. Deviant behavior
  9. Dust
  10. Feathers
  11. Fowls
  12. motivation
  13. plumage
  14. Poultry