Skip to main content

The relationship between measures of fear of humans and lameness in broiler chicken flocks

  • G. Vasdal (a1), R. O. Moe (a2), I. C. de Jong (a3) and E. G. Granquist (a2)

In the Welfare Quality® assessment protocol for broilers, the touch test is included to assess the human–animal relationship in the flock. The test is designed to measure the animals’ fear of humans, assuming that broilers will withdraw from the observer if they are fearful. However, many broilers close to slaughter age have impaired walking ability, and the results from the touch test may thus be biased by lameness and poor leg health. As the touch test is currently being used in several countries to assess human–animal relationship in broilers, there is an urgent need to examine this potential relationship for a further validation of the test. In the present study, fear of humans was assessed in 50 randomly selected Norwegian broiler flocks, using the touch test as described in the Welfare Quality® protocol for ty broilers. Leg health was assessed by examining the gait of 150 random birds in each of the flocks, using a six-point gait score scale from 0 to 5. The coefficient for the relationship between touch test score and gait score was 0.034 (P<0.001), indicating that the animals express less fear as assessed by the touch test when the gait scores increase. This implies that the touch test may be confounded by impaired walking ability and therefore might be a suboptimal method of assessing fear of humans and human–animal relationship in broilers. In conclusion, the results from this study suggests that the touch test must be further validated in broilers and perhaps be replaced with a fear test that doesn’t rely on walking ability.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Bassler, AW, Arnould, C, Butterworth, A, Colin, L, de Jong, IC, Ferrante, V, Ferrari, P, Haslam, S, Wemelsfelder, F and Blokhuis, HJ 2013. Potential risk factors associated with contact dermatitis, lameness, negative emotional state, and fear of humans in broiler chickens flocks. Poultry Science 92, 28112826.
Bayram, A and Özkan, S 2010. Effects of a 16-hour light, 8-hour dark lighting schedule on behavioral traits and performance in male broiler chickens. The Journal of Applied Poultry Research 19, 263273.
Boissy, A, Manteuffel, G, Jensen, MB, Moe, RO, Spruijt, B, Keeling, LJ, Winckler, C, Forkman, B, Dimitrov, I, Langbein, J, Bakken, M, Vessier, I and Aubert, A 2007. Assessment of positive emotions in animals to improve their welfare. Physiology and Behavior 92, 375397.
Broom, DM 1991. Animal welfare: concepts and measurement. Journal of Animal Science 69, 41674175.
Cransberg, PH, Hemsworth, PH and Coleman, GJ 2000. Human factors affecting the behaviour and productivity of commercial broiler chickens. British Poultry Science 41, 272279.
Danbury, TC, Weeks, CA, Chambers, JP, Waterman-Pearson, AE and Kestin, SC 2000. Self-selection of the analgesic drug carprofen by lame broiler chickens. The Veterinary Record 146, 307311.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) 2012. EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW): scientific opinion on the use of animal-based measures to assess welfare of broilers. EFSA Journal 10, 2774.
Forkman, B, Boissy, A, Meunier-Salaün, MC, Canali, E and Jones, RB 2007. A critical review of fear tests used on cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and horses. Physiology and Behavior 92, 340374.
Fraser, D 2008. Understanding animal welfare. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 50, 1.
Graml, C, Niebuhr, K and Waiblinger, S 2008b. Reaction of laying hens to humans in the home or a novel environment. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 113, 98109.
Graml, C, Waiblinger, S and Niebuhr, K 2008a. Validation of tests for on-farm assessment of the hen–human relationship in non-cage systems. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 111, 301310.
Jones, B and Boissy, A 2011. Fear and other negative emotions. Animal Welfare 7897.
Jones, RB 1986. The tonic immobility reaction of the domestic fowl: a review. World’s Poultry Science Journal 42, 8296.
Jones, RB 1992. The nature of handling immediately prior to test affects tonic immobility fear reactions in laying hens and broilers. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 34, 247254.
Jones, RB 1996. Fear and adaptability in poultry: insights, implications and imperatives. World’s Poultry Science Journal 52, 131174.
Jones, RB and Waddington, D 1992. Modification of fear in domestic chicks, Gallus gallus domesticus, via regular handling and early environmental enrichment. Animal Behaviour 43, 10211033.
Kestin, SC, Knowles, TG, Tinch, AE and Gregory, NG 1992. Prevalence of leg weakness in broiler chickens and its relationship with genotype. Veterinary Record 131, 190194.
Kittelsen, KE, David, B, Moe, RO, Poulsen, HD, Young, JF and Granquist, EG 2016. Associations between gait score, production data, abattoir registrations and post mortem tibia measurements in Norwegian broiler chickens. Poultry Science 96, 10331040.
Knowles, TG, Kestin, SC, Haslam, SM, Brown, SN, Green, LE, Butterworth, A, Pope, SJ, Pfeiffer, D and Nicol, CJ 2008. Leg Disorders in Broiler Chickens: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Prevention. PloS one 3:e1545, article number e1545.
Marin, RH, Freytes, P, Guzman, D and Jones, RB 2001. Effects of an acute stressor on fear and on the social reinstatement responses of domestic chicks to cagemates and strangers. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 71, 5766.
McGeown, DT, Danbury, T, Waterman-Pearson, A and Kestin, S 1999. Effect of carprofen on lameness in broiler chickens. Veterinary Record 144, 668671.
Pichova, K, Nordgreen, J, Leterrier, C, Kostal, L and Moe, RO 2016. The effects of food-related environmental complexity on litter directed behaviour, fear and exploration of novel stimuli in young broiler chickens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 174, 8389.
Sanotra, GS, Lund, JD and Vestergaard, KS 2002. Influence of light-dark schedules and stocking density on behaviour, risk of leg problems and occurrence of chronic fear in broilers. British Poultry Science 43, 344354.
Vestergaard, K and Sanotra, G 1999. Relationships between leg disorders and changes in the behaviour of broiler chickens. Veterinary Record 144, 205209.
Weeks, CA, Danbury, TD, Davies, HC, Hunt, P and Kestin, SC 2000. The behaviour of broiler chickens and its modification by lameness. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 67, 111125.
Welfare Quality 2009. The Welfare Quality ® assessment protocol for poultry (broilers, laying hens). The Welfare Quality® Consortium, Lelystad, the Netherlands.
Zulkifli, I, Gilbert, J, Liew, PK and Ginsos, J 2002. The effects of regular visual contact with human beings on fear, stress, antibody and growth responses in broiler chickens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 79, 103112.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1751-7311
  • EISSN: 1751-732X
  • URL: /core/journals/animal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 68 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 257 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 7th July 2017 - 20th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.