Domestic chickens (Gallus domesticus) are often used as a model species in testing bird olfaction. Previous studies have indicated that domestic chicks can discriminate between various odors, are attracted to familiar odors, and use olfactory cues during food selection. Additionally, studies have indicated that olfaction plays an important role in predator recognition in a variety of songbirds. It has yet to be demonstrated, however, whether chickens can detect predators using olfactory cues. To address this, we tested 1-2 day old naïve chicks with undiluted fox urine and found that they were able to detect this scent. This could potentially signify that an innate fear response is present in domestic chicks and is initiated upon exposure to a predator’s scent. Furthermore, given the intensity with which chicks responded to the fox urine, we might have identified a useful odor to use in future chicken olfaction studies. To clarify how our testing method may have been affected by time of day, we also compared the responses of birds in the morning, afternoon, and evening and found there to be a significant difference in effectiveness of the test based on the time of day. Finally, results of a gustatory preference test between foods flavored with fish or flax oil will be discussed.
Alba, Andrew C. and Cunningham, Gregory B., "The Fox in the Henhouse: Responses of Chickens (Gallus domesticus) to the Scent of a Predator" (2010). Biology Faculty Publications. Paper 13.
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