Genetic Selection for Poultry Behaviour: Big Bad Wolf or Friend in Need?
Although genetic selection for certain characteristics has compromised the well-being of domestic animals, selective breeding could and probably should be used to improve welfare. Three of the major behavioural problems facing the poultry industry are fear, feather pecking and social stress. However, these and many other behavioural traits respond readily to genetic selection. The present paper reports the results of selective breeding studies in which underlying fearfulness, sociality, feather pecking, adrenocortical responsiveness, and growth rate were manipulated in Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, or in chickens, Gallus gallus domesticus. The apparent benefits of selection for appropriate levels of these characteristics are discussed, as are the ethical issues involved. The ultimate aims of the selection programmes and the studies described here are to improve the birds' welfare and productivity by increasing their ability to interact successfully with their physical environment, with one another, and with human beings.
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