M.Sc. by thesis
Aggressive feather pecking behaviour in the laying hen industry is a major problem worldwide, causing injury, death, and cannibalism in commercial flocks; thus, compromising bird welfare and resulting in great economic losses for producers. This behaviour may be viewed as an “abnormal repetitive behaviour.” In humans, psychiatric patients who suffer from disorders characterized by abnormal repetitive behaviours (ex. schizophrenia) have shown a high prevalence of intestinal disorders involving compromised intestinal motility, such as IBS (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12522523). As a Masters by Thesis student with Dr. Alexandra Harlander, I am comparing the intestinal motility of birds with high levels of feather pecking behaviour to birds with low levels of this behaviour. My aim is to determine whether dysfunctional intestinal motility contributes to abnormal feather pecking. I am using a tissue bath apparatus that keeps intestinal tissue alive ex vivo and I am recording contractions of the gut in the tissue bath. Using computer software, I will measure the frequency, velocity, and amplitude of intestinal motions. I have no results yet, but if my study shows that aggressive feather pecking is correlated with compromised gut motility, this might suggest that adding probiotics to their diets should be examined as part of the effort to reduce feather pecking in laying hens.
When I’m not working with the tissue bath, I can be found at the SFOAC Office on campus or helping to run OAC Graduate Student Council events (www.aggies.ca/about/). My passion for all things small and furry has also led me to volunteer at local veterinary clinics.