Early experiences matter: a review of the effects of prenatal environment on offspring characteristics in poultry

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Early life experiences can be important in determining offspring phenotypes and may influence interaction with the environment and hence health, welfare, and productivity. The prenatal environment of poultry can be divided into the pre-lay environment and the egg storage/incubation environment, both of which can affect offspring outcomes. The ability to separate maternal and egg/incubation effects makes birds well suited to this type of research. There are many factors, including feeding and nutrition, environmental conditions, husbandry practices, housing system, social environment, infectious environment, and maternal health status, that can influence both the health and performance and behavior and cognition of the offspring. There are some aspects of the environments that can be changed to produce beneficial effects in the offspring, like addition of certain additives to feed or short changes in incubation temperatures, while other aspects should be avoided to reduce negative effects, such as unpredictable feeding and lighting regimens. Measures of offspring characteristics may prove to be a useful method of assessing parent stock welfare if known stressors result in predictable offspring outcomes. This has the advantage of assessing the parent environment without interfering with the animals and possibly affecting their responses and could lead to improved welfare for the animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489 - 499
Number of pages11
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number3
Publication statusFirst published - 27 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note



  • Early experiences
  • Post-hatch performance
  • Prenatal environment
  • Welfare


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