Research Topic

Avian Behaviour and Cognition: The Special Case of Poultry

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About this Research Topic

Poultry species are of special relevance for veterinarians, industry stakeholders and consumers alike, as they represent the largest numbers of animals under our care at any one time (globally ≈113 billion kg of poultry meat produced annually). The low relative financial and perceived intrinsic value, vast ...

Poultry species are of special relevance for veterinarians, industry stakeholders and consumers alike, as they represent the largest numbers of animals under our care at any one time (globally ≈113 billion kg of poultry meat produced annually). The low relative financial and perceived intrinsic value, vast numbers and non-mammalian status, can negatively impact attitudes towards poultry and consequently their welfare. Societal and professional concerns about the care and welfare of farmed animals are frequently led by perceived cognitive and behavioural capabilities, such as ability to experience suffering, capacity to show emotional states or degree of “intelligence”. Due to the more distant genetic connection between birds and humans, avian species are generally regarded as having lower cognitive capacities than mammals. This is especially relevant in the case of farmed animals where poultry represents one of the least human-like species compared to other farmed mammals.

Evidence generated by welfare science and applied ethology studies have helped immensely to increase our knowledge on the topic of poultry behaviour and cognition over the last few decades. However, studies have been traditionally based on solving specific husbandry issues (e.g. feather pecking or lameness) generally losing the opportunity to further understand the proximate/ultimate causes of behaviour and its implications for cognitive science.

We launch this Research Topic with the intention to compile a wide selection of behavioural and interdisciplinary studies assessing any aspect of poultry research that could potentially shed light on cognitive abilities in avian species, including: social dynamics; stress, fear and pain perception; physiology, genetics and neuroscience; learning and behavioural plasticity; decision making, motivation and personality; mood and affective states; etc. We expect a combination of review articles, summarizing relevant knowledge placed into current context, and cutting edge experimental research articles, presenting recent areas of interest and identifying knowledge gaps. Since belief in the animal mind is a consistent predictor of attitudes towards different kinds of animal use, we hope the scientific evidence arising might help change public and professional attitudes towards poultry and avian species in general, and ultimately influence policy, practice and legislation to protect them.


Keywords: Behaviour, Cognition, Avian, Poultry, Welfare


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