Breeding of tomorrow's chickens to improve well-being1

H.-W. Cheng
2010 Poultry Science  
Chickens, as well as other animals, have the ability to change their behavior (behavioral plasticity) and physiology (physiological plasticity) based on the costs and benefits to fit their environment (adaptation). Through natural selection, the population preserves and accumulates traits that are beneficial and rejects those that are detrimental in their prevailing environments. The surviving populations are able to contribute more genes associated with-beneficial traits for increased fitness
more » ... o subsequent generations. Natural selection is slow but constant; working over multiple generations, the changes to the population often appear silent or undetectable at a given point in history. Chickens were domesticated from the wild red jungle fowl. The principle of domestication of chickens, as well as other farm animals, by humans is similar to that of natural selection: selecting the best animals with the highest survivability and reproducibility (artificial selection). Compared with natural selection, the process of artificial selection is motivated by human needs and acts more rapidly with more visible results over a short time period. This process has been further accelerated following the development of current breeding programs and the emergence of specialized breeding companies. A laying lien, for example, produces more than 300 hundred eggs a year, whereas a jungle fowl lays 4 to 6 eggs in a year. During the domestication process, chickens retained their capability to adapt to their housing environments, which is usually achieved by genetic changes occurring with each subsequent generation. Genes control the behavioral, physiological, imimmological, and psychological responses of animals to stressors, including environmental stimulations. With advances in understanding of genetic mediation of animal physiology and behavior and the discovery of the genome sequences of many species, animal production breeding programs can be improved in both speed and efficiency. Modern chicken breeding programs have the potential to be operated successfully in the breeding of tomorrow's chickens with high production efficiency and optimal welfare, resulting from resistance to stress, disease, or both.
doi:10.3382/ps.2009-00361 pmid:20308415 fatcat:q73rja7lufanpgrktaxkjpexe4