Numerous aversive events occur in poultry production, and if repeated and unpredictable, can result in an impaired welfare. Some events such as handling can be perceived negatively and it is of interest to understand how humans' behaviour could affect poultry's behaviours and especially its avoidance of humans. Our aim was to evaluate short- and long-lasting effects of a 3-week procedure involving unpredictable repeated negative stimuli (URNS) applied during the post-juvenile period on quail's reactivity to humans. We compared the reactions of two sets of quail: URNS was applied to one set (treated quail) and the other set was left undisturbed (control quail). When two weeks old, treated quail were exposed to a variety of negative stimuli, either applied automatically or involving human presence. One and seven weeks after the termination of the procedure, the reactivity of control and treated quail to a passive human being was evaluated. Furthermore, the experimenter with her hand on a trough containing a mealworm assessed the propensity of quail of both groups to habituate to feed close to a human being. In the presence of a seated observer, treated quail were more inhibited and more alert than control quail. Likewise, seven weeks after the end of the URNS procedure, more treated than control quail adopted a fear posture. Moreover, whereas control quail spent as much time in the different areas of their cages, treated quail spent more time in the rear part of their cages. Finally, whereas control quail habituated gradually to feed near the experimenter's hand, treated quail did not. All these tests evidence negative short- and long-term effects on treated quail's reactivity to a passive human being and on their habituation to a human being when her presence is positively reinforced. This highlights the importance of young poultry's experience with humans in production.
|Publication Title||PLoS One|
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