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International Journal of Poultry Science

.: Home > International Journal of Poultry Science > 2008 > Volume 7 Number 9 > Elena Bulmer1 and Diego Gil2

Chronic Stress in Battery Hens: Measuring Corticosterone in Laying Hen Eggs

Elena Bulmer1 and Diego Gil2
1PROVITA, Avenida De las Acacias, Torre La Previsora, Piso 15, Plaza Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela 2Departamento de Ecologيa Evolutiva, Museo de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, E-28006 Madrid, Spain
Abstract :

There has been growing social and scientific interest in recent years in laying hen welfare. Stress
is an animal welfare parameter that has been found to alter laying hens’ physiology and social behaviour.
Our study aims to test the effects of the different housing systems (laying cage, barn and free range) on the
laying hens’ welfare. In this study we have taken a new approach to determine stress levels by measuring
corticosterone and androgen concentrations in the eggs laid by hens housed in different farming systems.
We found no relationship between commercial egg production type and androgen (testosterone and
androstenedione) levels. Contrary to our expectations, we observed an almost significant positive trend
between corticosterone levels and welfare quality: free range eggs contained the highest corticosterone
concentrations. This would initially suggest that free range hens are more stressed than battery or barn
hens. However, considering that chronic stressors can reduce an organism’s hormonal output, our results
could suggest that the low levels of corticosterone in battery hens are an indication of a chronic stress
situation. Our data suggest that measuring corticosterone in eggs is a novel non-invasive method to
determine stress levels in laying hens. This study would however need to be combined with a number of
parameters (health, production and behaviour) to get an encompassing measure of laying hen welfare.

Keywords :
Corticosterone, laying hen, laying hen welfare, maternal effect, stress, testosterone

Date Deposited : 13 Jul 2011 09:34

Last Modified : 13 Jul 2011 09:34

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Volume 7, Number 9, - 2008 , ISSN 1682-8356

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