Zhao, S., Cui, W., Yin, G. et al. 2023. Effects of different auditory environments on behavior, learning ability, and fearfulness in 4-week-old laying hen chicks. Animals 13(19), 3022.

Environmental enrichment can improve animal welfare. As a method of environmental enrichment, the effect of different auditory stimulations on the behavior response and welfare of laying hen chicks has yet to be investigated. Therefore, this study was aimed at exploring the impact of various auditory exposures on the behavior, learning ability, and fear response of 4-week-old laying hen chicks. A total of 600 1-day-old chicks were randomly assigned to five different groups: C (control group), LM (Mozart’s String Quartets, 65 to 75 dB), LN (recorded ventilation fans and machinery, 65 to 75 dB), HN (recorded ventilation fans and machinery, 85 to 95 dB), and HM (Mozart’s String Quartets, 85 to 95 dB). The experiment was conducted from day 1 until the end of the experiment on day 28. Groups LM and LN were exposed to music and noise stimulation ranging from 65 to 75 dB. Groups HN and HM, meanwhile, received noise and music stimulation ranging from 85 to 95 dB. The control group (C) did not receive any additional auditory stimuli. During the experimental period, continuous behavioral recordings were made of each group of chicks from day 22 to day 28. On day 21, the PAL (one-trial passive avoidance learning) task was conducted. On days 23 and 24, OF (open field) and TI (tonic immobility) tests were performed, and the levels of serum CORT (corticosterone) and DA (dopamine) were measured. The results indicated that exposure to music and noise at intensities ranging from 85 to 95 dB could reduce comforting, preening, PAL avoidance rate, the total number of steps and grid crossings of OF, and the concentration of DA in 4 WOA chicks (p < 0.05), increase the freezing times of OF (p < 0.05); 65 to 75 dB of noise stimulation could reduce preening and total number steps of OF in 4 WOA chicks (p < 0.05), increase the freezing times of OF (p < 0.05); and 65 to 75 dB of music exposure could reduce the concentration of CORT in 4 WOA chicks (p < 0.05). Therefore, 65 to 75 dB of music exposure could produce positive effects on chicks and showed relatively low CORT level, whereas 85 to 95 dB of music and noise exposure could reduce comforting and preening behavior, impair learning ability, and increase the fear responses of chicks.

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