Chicken Behaviour and Welfare

This course will explain the general principles of chicken behaviour and welfare, and the behavioural and physiological indicators that can be used to assess welfare in chickens kept in hobby flocks through to commercial farms.

About The Course

This course will explain the general principles of chicken behaviour and welfare, and the behavioural and physiological indicators that can be used to assess welfare in chickens kept in hobby flocks through to commercial farms. The focus is primarily on laying hens and meat chickens (broilers) although many of the principles will be relevant to other types of poultry. The course is likely to be of interest to people who own chickens as pets or keep a small hobby flock, commercial egg and chicken meat producers, veterinarians and vet nurses.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this course, you will be able to:
  1. Describe avian sensory perception and motivation.
  2. Explain the main behaviour patterns of poultry.
  3. Define welfare and explain the bases of welfare standards.
  4. Assess chicken welfare, using behavioural and physiological means
  5. Understand common welfare problems of chickens.

This course is taught by staff from Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and St David's Poultry Team.

Frequently Asked Questions

What resources will I need for this class?
None, not even your own chickens!

Do I earn University of Edinburgh credits upon completion of this class?
No. The Statement of Accomplishment is not part of a formal qualification from the University. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.

What background is expected for learners in this class?
You do not need any specialist background to take this class. Although designed at basic undergraduate level of learning, it may also be suitable for school children. However please note that we will discuss and show images of potentially distressing topics such as common chicken diseases, welfare problems such as feather pecking, and emergency culling of chickens, which may be unsuitable for younger/sensitive people.

What is the most interesting thing I'll learn if I take this class?
Hmm, hard to say, it's all so interesting! Possibly the complexities behind assessing what is good for chicken welfare - for example, giving birds access to fresh air and grass does not guarantee their good quality of life.

Recommended Background

No background reading required, just an interest in chickens.