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Emotional reactivity of Japanese quail chicks with high or low social motivation reared under unstable social conditions

By C. Schweitzer, C. Arnould

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Repeated encounters with unfamiliar conspecifics in large groups of domestic birds create a potentially stressful social environment which can affect the birds' emotional reactivity and consequently their welfare. As social relationships between young quail are particularly influenced by their social motivation (i.e., the motivation to seek close proximity with conspecifics), it is likely that the reaction of quail to repeated encounters with strangers depends on their social motivation. The aim of this study was to assess the emotional reactivity of quail chicks with high (HSR) or low (LSR) social motivation housed under stable and unstable social conditions. Quail chicks were housed either in stable pairs, i.e. remaining with the same cagemate until testing (NHSR=19 and NLSR=18 pairs), or in unstable pairs, i.e. changing cagemate daily from 6 to 13 days of age (NHSR=20 and NLSR=19 pairs). Emotional reactivity was measured using a novel object test on day 14, and an emergence test and a tonic immobility test on day 15. The social condition affected the number of induction attempts of quail chicks in the tonic immobility test but only in the LSR ones. This number of inductions was lower under the stable than under the unstable social condition in this line. Moreover, the HSR chicks showed greater disturbance than the LSR ones in the three behavioural tests. In conclusion, social instability did not affect the emotional reactivity of HSR quail chicks, which was high, regardless of social condition. In contrast, repeated cagemate changes seemed to decrease the emotional reactivity of LSR quail chicks. These results suggest that low social motivation makes easier the adaptation to the potential social instability encountered in large flocks.

Date 2010
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 125
Issue 3/4
Pages 143-150
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address INRA, UMR85 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, F-37380 Nouzilly, France.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal health and hygiene
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Birds
  7. Chickens
  8. Domestic animals
  9. Flocks
  10. Livestock
  11. Living conditions
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Poultry
  14. Social behavior
  15. Social Environments
  16. social situation
  17. Stress
  1. peer-reviewed