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Parasitic mites alter chicken behaviour and negatively impact animal welfare.


The northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum, is one of the most common and damaging ectoparasites of poultry. As an obligate blood feeding mite, the northern fowl mite can cause anaemia, slower growth, and decreased egg production of parasitized birds. However, the impact of mites or other ectoparasites on hen behaviour or welfare is not well studied. Here, we use activity sensors (three-axis accelerometers) affixed to individual birds to continuously record hen movement before, during, and after infestation with mites. Movements recorded by sensors were identified to specific bird behaviours through a previously trained algorithm, with frequency of these behaviours recorded for individual birds. Hen welfare was also determined before, during, and after mite infestation of hens using animal-based welfare metrics. Northern fowl mites significantly increased hen preening behaviour and resulted in increased skin lesions of infested birds.

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