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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #212188

Title: Different Effects of Individual Identification Systems on Chicken Well-Being

item Cheng, Heng Wei

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/4/2008
Publication Date: 3/4/2008
Citation: Dennis, R., Fahey, A., Cheng, H. 2008. Different Effects of Individual Identification Systems on Chicken Well-Being. Poultry Science. 87:1052-1057.

Interpretive Summary: Artificial marking and tagging for individual identification are an integral part of animal research, including research utilizing animals as models for biomedical, agricultural and wildlife experimentation. A variety of identification systems are available and researchers often choose identification systems based on experimental design and/or convenience, with little knowledge of their effects on the animals or the experimental results. Our research group recently investigated the potential side effects of four popular identification systems used in poultry research, i.e., leg bands, wing bands, neck tags and livestock marker applied to the tail feathers. The birds’ behavioral and physiological changes associated with these identification systems were examined in comparison with birds bearing no identification marks. Results showed that wing and leg banding systems have a great impact on the social interactions of birds with their cage-mates as compared to neck tags and livestock marker. Our findings provide evidence of the side effects of wing and leg band systems on birds’ well-being. The data can be adopted by scientists in designing and conducting research, with an emphasis on receiving reliable conclusions and improving animal well-being.

Technical Abstract: Individual identification is a common method used in animal research. This study was designed to examine if commonly used identification systems, i.e., leg bands, wing bands, neck tags, and livestock marker, have different effects on hens' behavioral and physiological homeostasis. At 18 wks of age, hens were paired in all combinations of treatments and control (unmarked hens; n=10) in a novel cage for 5 trials of 1 hr each to test the effects of identification markers on social behaviors. Increased feather pecking was exhibited in wing banded hens compared with control hens (P<0.10). Increased feather pecking in hens with wing bands may suggest an increase in social stress and may lead to increased feather and body damage. No effect of identification treatment was evident on frequency of aggressive behaviors (P>0.10). At 20 wks of age, absolute fluctuating asymmetry (FA), but not relative FA, of shank length and width was more significant in leg banded hens (P<0.05), and tended to be significant in wing banded hens (P<0.10), compared to control hens. Asymmetry of the shank is often a result of high stress levels, including social stress. Body weight measured at 20 wks of age showed that hens with leg bands were significantly lighter than control hens (P<0.05), possibly as a result of decreased access to resources, increased metabolism or decreased appetite due to elevated stress. Increased absolute FA and decreased BW could be evidence of a disruption of the hens’ physiological homeostasis due to increased stress. Hens with leg bands also tended to have lower percent heterophil (P<0.10), indicative of increased stress and reduced immunocompetence. Our findings provide clear evidence of the negative effects of wing and leg band identification systems on hens’ well-being, altering both physiological and behavioral homeostasis. Without knowledge of the effects, the use of individual identification systems could lead to misinterpretation of experimental results.