Effects of Resource Allocation on Behavioural Strategies: A Comparison of Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) and Two Domesticated Breeds of Poultry


Karin Schütz, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Section of Ethology, POB 234, S-532 23 Skara, Sweden. E-mail: Karin.Schutz@hmh.slu.se


Three different breeds of poultry, representing different degrees of domestication, were observed in semi-natural conditions in order to study differences in foraging behaviour, activity levels and social behaviours which could be caused by correlated responses to selection for increased production. The breeds used were: (i) red junglefowl (Gallus gallus); (ii) Swedish bantam, which is a domestic breed that has not undergone selection for production traits; and (iii) Hy-Line, a White leghorn laying hybrid, selected mainly for food conversion efficiency. The birds were offered ad libitum food simultaneously from sites where the food was freely available and from sites where the birds had to search and scratch for food which was mixed with wood-shavings. The behaviour was observed three times per day (48 min/d), 3 d per week in eight groups (four birds per group) of each breed between 7 and 18 wks of age. Junglefowl and bantam obtained a significantly higher proportion of their food from the site that required effort. The opposite case was true for the Hy-Line. Overall, bantams performed significantly more foraging behaviour than Hy-Lines. The Hy-Line breed was more inactive and less involved in social interactions than the junglefowl and the bantam. The results support the idea that selection for high production results in modified behavioural strategies. Behaviours that are of high energetic cost, such as extensive foraging and social interactions, were of lower in frequency in the laying hens compared to junglefowl and bantam, allowing the laying hens to save energy that can be reallocated to production traits.