Muvhali, P. T., Bonato, M., Engelbrecht, A. et al. 2020. Extensive human presence and regular gentle handling improve growth, survival and immune competence in ostrich chicks. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 23(1), 95-107.
A total of 416 day-old ostrich chicks were randomly allocated to one of the three different husbandry practices for 3 months after hatch; HP1 (extensive human presence with gentle human voice, visual and gentle physical stimuli), HP2 (similar to HP1 but without physical stimuli) and S (human presence limited to supply of feed and water). Chick weight (kg) was measured at 6 and 12 weeks of age, while mortalities were recorded daily to calculate the survival rate. Finally, chicks’ antibody responses to vaccination against Newcastle disease (NCD) was measured using the Hemagglutination-Inhibition (HI) test at 20 weeks of age. While HP1 chicks were heavier and survived better to 6 weeks of age than HP2 and S chicks (p < .05), no difference was observed thereafter (p > .05). Furthermore, HP1 chicks had an improved immune competence, as illustrated by their lower percentage of positive HI titers, compared to HP2 and S chicks (p < .05). Hence, integrating extensive human presence with positive human-chick interactions may assist in alleviating challenges related to chick rearing in the ostrich industry.