Koch, C. S., Ballantyne, K. C., Tynes, V. V. et al. 2017. Training Rhea americana chicks to walk voluntarily across a scale; effect on the handler's time and the chicks' weight gain compared with traditional techniques: A pilot study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 18, 69-75.
The purpose of this pilot study was to determine if Rhea americana chicks could be trained to walk voluntarily across a scale to be weighed. If the chicks were trainable, the following questions would be investigated: the amount of time required to teach the chicks to walk voluntarily across a scale; the feasibility of this process in the production setting; and whether training chicks to walk voluntarily across a scale would lead to increased weight gain when compared with chicks weighed using traditional methods. The hypotheses were that chicks could be trained to walk voluntarily across the scale; the process would be feasible in a production setting; and trained chicks would experience an increased weight gain and decreased mortality compared with chicks weighed in the traditional manner. Thirty-five chicks were included in the study and randomly separated into 2 groups matched for hatch date and breeder group. Chicks in the control group were weighed in the traditional manner by being picked up and placed in a bucket on the scale. Chicks in the treatment group were trained to walk down a chute and onto a scale. Weighing occurred every other day for both the control and treatment groups. Training Rhea americana chicks to walk voluntarily across a scale required only 2 people and less than 1 minute per chick per day for 5 days for the treatment group, suggesting this training method would be feasible to implement. There was no difference in percentage weight gain or mortality between the control and treatment groups.