DOI: 10.3390/ani14060873 ISSN: 2076-2615

Circadian Corticosterone Profile in Laying Hens (Gallus gallus domesticus)

Theresa Hillebrecht, Rüdiger Korbel, Monika Rinder, Manfred Gahr
  • General Veterinary
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Measurement of blood corticosterone concentrations has been established as an indicator for assessment of acute distress. Therefore, knowledge on physiological fluctuations is required, but previous studies allow little conclusion on daily fluctuations in domestic chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus). To verify the presence of a circadian corticosterone rhythm in socialized chickens, blood samples were taken at four-hour intervals from 12 laying hens kept in groups of four over three days, each. Prior to experiments, hens were adapted to repeated handling for stress reduction. Corticosterone concentration was determined using radioimmunoassay. Blood sampling time and duration were recorded, and audio and video recordings were analyzed to assess the impact of behavior on corticosterone concentrations. Despite individual fluctuations, most hens showed a circadian course with two peaks per day. Statistics revealed a significant peak during the day (between 12:00 p.m. and 04:00 p.m.) and a tendency for a second peak at night (12:00 a.m.). The daily corticosterone peak was not explained by daytime social stress and needs to be seen as an endophenotype. The role of nightly corticosterone production has to be investigated in further studies. There might be a relation between corticosterone and reproduction since the only hen not showing peaks was not laying eggs.

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