20 Jan 2017
The olfactory ability of the Domestic Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus)

BRANTA — Katerina Nicola

The olfactory ability of the Domestic Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus)

Institution: Moulton College, UK

Supervisors: unspecified

Details: BSc, 2015

Moulton College,
West Street,


Subject Keywords:olfaction, welfare, scent, maze
Species Keywords: Domestic Chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus


Avians have been considered to have little, if any olfactory capability, as they are believed to be visually dependent organisms. The aim was to investigate the existence of an olfactory ability in domestic chickens and to which extent. Supporting evidence could potentially support welfare improvements by using odourants in a variety of methods and situations. 15 chickens were subjected to three unscented boxes without food and three scented boxes with food in preparation of video recorded trials of one minute each in a radial maze comprised of the same six nest boxes without food. No significant difference was found between the interaction time spent by each individual in both nest box types: ‘scented’ and ‘unscented’ (P= 0.969), with a higher amount of time spent by the entire sample population interacting with the ‘unscented’ box type. The highest number of visits by the sample population was seen for the ‘scented’ box type and significant associations were found between both nest box types with breed as well as group (P= 0.001) relating to the number of ‘pecks’ in each. This may suggest that differences in environment, breed and past experiences potentially influence olfactory behaviours and preferences. Additionally, other factors may have influenced the results including trial order, maze layout and other odours; all of which are discussed in the following report.

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