A simple method for testing odor detection and discrimination in chicks

Physiol Behav. 1999 Sep;67(3):459-62. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(99)00056-6.


A simple procedure for testing newly hatched chicks' responses to olfactory stimuli is described. Chicks that were hand held under a heatlamp became inactive and closed their eyes (as if asleep) within 2 min. Sleeping chicks displayed overt behavioral responses to an odorized q-tip (head shaking, beak clapping) that were not observed in awake chicks. Sleeping latencies were shorter for 1-day-old chicks that had been food deprived prior to testing than for chicks that had ad lib access to food and water. When airborne odors were presented by squeezing a soft plastic odor bottle near the beak, sleeping chicks' reactions to mint were of a greater magnitude than their responses to lavender or orange scents. Nonetheless, all three odors elicited more pronounced behavioral responses than did the water control stimulus. This method allows rapid testing of individual chicks for odor detection and discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / psychology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Chickens
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Food Deprivation / physiology
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Psychophysics / methods
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Water Deprivation / physiology