Domestic chickens are members of an order, Aves, which has been the focus of a revolution in our understanding of neuroanatomical, cognitive, and social complexity. At least some birds are now known to be on par with many mammals in terms of their level of intelligence, emotional sophistication, and social interaction. Yet, views of chickens have largely remained unrevised by this new evidence. In this paper, I examine the peer-reviewed scientific data on the leading edge of cognition, emotions, personality, and sociality in chickens, exploring such areas as self-awareness, cognitive bias, social learning and self-control, and comparing their abilities in these areas with other birds and other vertebrates, particularly mammals. My overall conclusion is that chickens are just as cognitively, emotionally and socially complex as most other birds and mammals in many areas, and that there is a need for further noninvasive comparative behavioral research with chickens as well as a re-framing of current views about their intelligence.
Coccidiosis, caused by species of the apicomplexan parasite Eimeria, is a major disease of chickens. Eimeria species are present world-wide, and are ubiquitous under intensive farming methods. However, prevalence of Eimeria species is not uniform across production systems. In developing countries such as Ethiopia, a high proportion of chicken production occurs on rural smallholdings (i.e. ‘village chicken production’) where infectious diseases constrain productivity and surveillance is low. Coccidiosis is reported to be prevalent in these areas. However, a reliance on oocyst morphology to determine the infecting species may impede accurate diagnosis. Here, we used cross-sectional and longitudinal studies to investigate the prevalence of Eimeria oocyst shedding at two rural sites in the Ethiopian highlands.
Two broiler trials were designed to investigate the relationship between the concentration of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) in wheat and 1) its nutritional value for broilers and 2) the efficacy of exogenous enzymes. In a balance trial, diets were formulated with 3 wheat cultivars (Rustic and Viscount-medium NSP, Centenaire-high NSP) and were tested with or without the addition of an exogenous enzyme mixture. The diets were fed to 144 male Ross 308 broiler chickens housed in digestibility cages. Total tract nutrient digestibilities and AMEn were measured from 18 to 22 d of age. In a performance trial, diets were formulated with wheat (medium NSP diet) or with wheat mixed with rye and barley (high NSP diet) and were tested with or without the addition of an exogenous enzyme mixture. The diets were fed to 960 male Ross 308 broilers housed in pens and broiler performance during starter, grower and finisher periods was measured.In the balance trial, wheat cultivar did not affect nutrient digestibility or AMEn. Enzyme addition caused a significant increase in nutrient digestibilities and AMEn for the diet formulated with the high NSP wheat Centenaire only. In the performance trial, feeding the high NSP diet resulted in a higher feed conversion ratio and lower final body weight compared to the medium NSP diet. The largest improvements by enzyme addition were observed in the high NSP diet.In conclusion, the study was not able to show a consistent relationship between the NSP concentration of wheat and its nutritional value, but did demonstrate that the effect of an enzyme mixture on nutrient digestibility or broiler performance depends upon the NSP concentration in the diet.
The Late Jurassic Lourinhã Formation is known for its abundant remains of dinosaurs, crocodylomorphs and other vertebrates. Among this record are nine localities that have produced either dinosaur embryos, eggs or eggshell fragments. Herein, we describe and identify the first crocodiloid morphotype eggs and eggshells from the Lourinhã Formation, from five occurrences. One clutch from Cambelas, composed of 13 eggs, eggshell fragments from Casal da Rola and Peralta, one crushed egg and eggshells from Paimogo North, and four crushed eggs as well as eggshell fragments from Paimogo South. We observed and confirmed diagnostic morphological characters for crocodiloid eggshells and which are consistent with a crocodylomorph affinity, such as the ellipsoidal shape, wedge-shaped shell units, triangular extinction under cross-polarized light, and tabular ultrastructure. This material is distinctive enough to propose two new ootaxa within the oofamily Krokolithidae, Suchoolithus portucalensis, oogen. and oosp. nov., for the material from Cambelas, the most complete clutch known for crocodiloid eggs, and Krokolithes dinophilus, oosp. nov., for the remaining material. These are the oldest crocodylomorph eggs known, extending the fossil record for this group to the Late Jurassic. Furthermore, except for the clutch from Cambelas, the material was found with theropod eggs and nests, in the other four occurrences, which seem to suggest some form of biological relationship, still unclear at this point.
In the United Kingdom, outbreaks of Campylobacter infection are increasingly attributed to undercooked chicken livers, yet many recipes, including those of top chefs, advocate short cooking times and serving livers pink. During 2015, we studied preferences of chefs and the public in the United Kingdom and investigated the link between liver rareness and survival of Campylobacter. We used photographs to assess chefs' ability to identify chicken livers meeting safe cooking guidelines. To investigate the microbiological safety of livers chefs preferred to serve, we modeled Campylobacter survival in infected chicken livers cooked to various temperatures. Most chefs correctly identified safely cooked livers but overestimated the public’s preference for rareness and thus preferred to serve them more rare. We estimated that 19%-52% of livers served commercially in the United Kingdom fail to reach 70°C and that predicted Campylobacter survival rates are 48%-98%. These findings indicate that cooking trends are linked to increasing Campylobacter infections.
Birds seem to use a light-dependent, radical-pair-based magnetic compass. In vertebrates, cryptochromes are the only class of proteins that form radical pairs upon photo-excitation. Therefore, they are currently the only candidate proteins for light-dependent magnetoreception. Cryptochrome 4 (Cry4) is particularly interesting because it has only been found in vertebrates that use a magnetic compass. However, its structure and localization within the retina has remained unknown. Here, we sequenced night-migratory European robin (Erithacus rubecula) Cry4 from the retina and predicted the currently unresolved structure of the erCry4 protein, which suggests that erCry4 should bind Flavin. We also found that Cry1a, Cry1b, and Cry2 mRNA display robust circadian oscillation patterns, whereas Cry4 shows only a weak circadian oscillation. When we compared the relative mRNA expression levels of the cryptochromes during the spring and autumn migratory seasons relative to the non-migratory seasons in European robins and domestic chickens (Gallus gallus), the Cry4 mRNA expression level in European robin retinae, but not in chicken retinae, is significantly higher during the migratory season compared to the non-migratory seasons. Cry4 protein is specifically expressed in the outer segments of the double cones and long-wavelength single cones in European robins and chickens. A localization of Cry4 in double cones seems to be ideal for light-dependent magnetoreception. Considering all of the data presented here, especially including its localization within the European robin retina, its likely binding of Flavin, and its increased expression during the migratory season in the migratory bird but not in chicken, Cry4 could be the magnetoreceptive protein.
Although the temporal overlap between human dispersal across Australia and the disappearance of its largest animals is well established, the lack of unambiguous evidence for human-megafauna interactions has led some to question a human role in megafaunal extinction. Here we show that diagnostic burn patterns on eggshell fragments of the megafaunal bird Genyornis newtoni, found at >200 sites across Australia, were created by humans discarding eggshell in and around transient fires, presumably made to cook the eggs. Dating by three methods restricts their occurrence to between 53.9 and 43.4 ka, and likely before 47 ka. Dromaius (emu) eggshell occur frequently in deposits from >100 ka to present; burnt Dromaius eggshell first appear in deposits the same age as those with burnt Genyornis eggshell, and then continually to modern time. Harvesting of their eggs by humans would have decreased Genyornis reproductive success, contributing to the bird’s extinction by ∼47 ka.
Oocyan or blue/green eggshell colour is an autosomal dominant trait found in native chickens (Mapuche fowl) of Chile and in some of their descendants in European and North American modern breeds. We report here the identification of an endogenous avian retroviral (EAV-HP) insertion in oocyan Mapuche fowl and European breeds. Sequencing data reveals 100% retroviral identity between the Mapuche and European insertions. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis of European oocyan chicken indicates over-expression of the SLCO1B3 gene (P<0.05) in the shell gland and oviduct. Predicted transcription factor binding sites in the long terminal repeats (LTR) indicate AhR/Ar, a modulator of oestrogen, as a possible promoter/enhancer leading to reproductive tissue-specific over-expression of the SLCO1B3 gene. Analysis of all jungle fowl species Gallus sp. supports the retroviral insertion to be a post-domestication event, while identical LTR sequences within domestic chickens are in agreement with a recent de novo mutation.
This paper investigates what “free-range” eggs are available for sale in supermarkets in Australia, what “free-range” means on product labelling, and what alternative “free-range” offers to cage production. The paper concludes that most of the “free-range” eggs currently available in supermarkets do not address animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and public health concerns but, rather, seek to drive down consumer expectations of what these issues mean by balancing them against commercial interests. This suits both supermarkets and egg producers because it does not challenge dominant industrial-scale egg production and the profits associated with it. A serious approach to free-range would confront these arrangements, and this means it may be impossible to truthfully label many of the “free-range” eggs currently available in the dominant supermarkets as free-range.