Effects of maternal care and selection for low mortality on tyrosine hydroxylase concentrations and cell soma size in hippocampus and nidopallium caudolaterale in adult laying hen

Nordquist, R.E.; Zeinstra, E.C.; Rodenburg, T.B.; Staay, F.J. van der


Feather pecking and cannibalism in farm-kept laying hens are damaging behaviors both in terms of animal welfare and economic loss, and a major challenge in modern poultry farming. Both rearing with a foster hen and genetic selection have been demonstrated to reduce feather pecking in laying hens. We examined the effects of rearing with a foster hen, genetic selection for low mortality from cannibalism, and interactions between both, using cellular morphology and levels of the rate-limiting enzyme in dopamine production, tyrosine hydroxylase, in the hippocampus and nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL) as a potential measure for laying hen welfare. Hens from the second generation of a sib-selection scheme line derived from a pure-bred White Leghorn line, selected for low mortality and for production characteristics, or their control line (CL) selected only for production characteristics, were housed with or without a foster Silky hen for the first 7 wk of life. Aside from the presence or absence of a foster Silky hen during the first 7 wk of life, housing conditions were identical for all hens. The hens were then sacrificed and brains were removed at 52 wk of age. Brains were sectioned and stained using a Nissl staining to reveal cell soma morphology, or using immunocytochemistry for tyrosine hydroxlase. A greater degree of lateralization in the hippocampus was observed in hens reared without a foster hen, as measured by absolute difference in cell soma size between hemispheres (P