Feed-restricted broiler breeders: State-dependent learning as a novel welfare assessment tool to evaluate their hunger state?

Louise Anne Buckley*, Victoria Sandilands, Paul Morison Hocking, Bert Jan Tolkamp, Rick Brian D'Eath

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper reports three experiments that aimed to validate the use of state-dependent learning (SDL) as a novel welfare assessment tool to evaluate the hunger state of feed-restricted broiler breeders.In each experiment, birds alternated every 2 days between two food rations: quantitative feed restriction (QFR) and ad libitum access to the same feed (AL). Each food ration was paired with a different, end of day, coloured food reward. It was predicted that the reward associated with hunger (QFR FR) would be preferred to the food reward associated with AL (AL FR) in a subsequent choice test. The SDL preference testing took place after 4 and 8 days of training. Each bird was tested twice (once per food ration fed on the test day).In experiment 1 (pilot, n=. 4), birds preferred the QFR-associated reward during both tests (mean (±S.E.M.) preference: QFR FR: 35.0 (±3.5). g; AL FR: 2 (±1.3). g, but differential food reward intake between hunger states during training confounded the results.In experiment two (. n=. 12) a smaller food reward was used during training to try and equalise intake. The birds preferred the QFR FR in test 1 only (least significant difference (L.S.D.). =. 15.08, P<. 0.05). The mean (±S.E.M.) consumption in test 1 was: QFR FR: 31.6 (±4.3). g; AL FR: 9.41 (±2.3). g. However, differential reward intake continued to confound the findings.In experiment three (. n=. 8), the food reward was made more palatable by feeding moist and food reward intake during training was equalised between hunger states. During testing, birds continued to show a significant preference in test 1 only (L.S.D.=. 13.73, P<. 0.05).It was concluded that SDL-derived preferences observed do exist but are not a robust phenomenon. Therefore, further research is needed to quantify factors influencing SDL development and maintenance before using SDL as a tool to assess hunger in feed-restricted broiler breeders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-132
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Early online date29 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animal welfare
  • Broiler breeder
  • Choice test
  • Feed restriction
  • Preference test
  • State-dependent learning


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