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Association between vent pecking and fluctuating asymmetry in hens

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Authors: M.T. Prieto, J.L. Campo, S.G. Dávila
Issue: 104-2 (180-185)
Topic: Animal Production
Keywords: Vent pecking, Fluctuating asymmetry, Chickens; Welfare, Cannibalism

The purpose of the present study was to analyze the relationship between incidence of vent pecking, fluctuating asymmetry in chickens. The experiment (140 birds in three different replicates) measured the fluctuating asymmetry of several traits (middle toe length, leg length, wing length, wattle length, and leg width) in 20-week-old pullets of five Spanish breeds of chickens (Blue Andaluza, Quail Castellana, White-faced Spanish, Red-barred Vasca, and Birchen Leonesa), and a White Leghorn population, with and without evidence of suffering from vent pecking. The number of birds per breed was 20, 24, 12, 20, 18, and 46, respectively. There was a significant difference between vent pecked and non-vent pecked birds on the relative fluctuating asymmetry of middle toe length (P<0.05), the relative fluctuating asymmetry of birds who suffered from vent pecking being larger. The combined relative fluctuating asymmetry of the five traits approached levels of statistical significance (P=0.08). Thus, vent pecked birds were more asymmetrical than non-vent pecked birds, having increased relative fluctuating asymmetry. Differences were consistent across the breeds. Results indicate that vent pecking is associated with measures of stress like fluctuating asymmetry.

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