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Behaviour and welfare in domestic birds

INRA Prod. Anim., 8 (1), 57-67.


INRA Station de Recherches Avicoles 37380 Nouzilly




The notion of animal welfare has two aspects : the perception by the public (consumers) of the conditions under which domestic animals are housed and the perception by the animals, themselves, of the conditions under which they are housed. Only the second of these two aspects can be addressed by behavioural studies. Two approaches to the improvement of animal welfare exist : adaptation of the environment (housing system) to the animal and adaptation of the animal to the environment. A pre-requisite of the first of these approaches is a clear understanding of the behavioural needs of the animals. Even in the domestic chicken, the acquisition of the information necessary for such an understanding is still incomplete. This point is illustrated using data from experiments with four different methodological approaches : comparison of the behaviour of animals in different environments operant conditioning, choice tests, and the induction of motivational conflict. The adaptation of an animal to its environment can be effected in two ways : ontogenetic and genetic. Data from studies using each of these approaches are given. It is concluded that animal welfare is most likely to be improved by the combination of environmental modification and genetic adaptation of domestic animals to modern hysbandry conditions.

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