M.Sc. - Poultry Behaviour and Welfare | Ontario Agricultural College

M.Sc. - Poultry Behaviour and Welfare

Position: M.Sc. - Poultry Behaviour and Welfare

OAC Academic Unit: Department of Animal Biosciences

Start date: September 2022 or January 2023

Advisor Name: Dr. Tina Widowski (twidowsk@uoguelph.ca)

Project Description

Perching requirements for pullets and laying hens: Preferences for grasping and elevation. The motivation of hens to grasp (wrapping toes around the perch) while perching is generally assumed based on the fact that birds have digital tendon locking mechanism that passively curls the toes when birds are roosting (sleeping), allowing them to balance on structures with minimal muscular effort. However, hens often choose to roost on the ends of elevated tiers or alighting rails in aviary systems and there is disagreement on whether these should be considered acceptable perches in animal care audits. More needs to be known about motivation for grasping, its development in pullets, and whether
conditions in aged birds (e.g. bumblefoot, keel fractures) influence preferred roosting structures. This project will address these gaps in knowledge by determining the development of preferences for perches and platforms at different elevations during rearing, and the preferences of adult laying hens for different perch structures at different heights in a commercial style aviary.

For this project, two MSc Graduate Assistantships are available in the laboratory of Dr. Tina Widowski in the Department of Animal Biosciences and the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph. The students will be involved in project planning, data collection and analysis, as well as presenting and publishing results. They will be expected to work collaboratively with other graduate and undergraduate students, technical staff and farm crew.

The MSc students will be enrolled in the Department of Animal Biosciences and be actively involved in the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW) at the University of Guelph. CCSAW, which comprises the largest group of animal welfare scientists in North America with faculty in the Ontario Agricultural College, Ontario Veterinary College and the College of Biological Sciences, is a dynamic place to pursue a degree in animal welfare science. CCSAW offers regular seminar series, weekly meetings for faculty and graduate students and opportunities to participate in many events including the animal welfare judging competition and an annual research symposium.


Applicants are required to hold a BSc in animal science, animal biology, zoology or a related field. The ideal applicants will be resourceful, good problem solvers and be able to work well both independently and with the team. Some physical
labour in poultry barns will be required. A full G Ontario driver’s license (or equivalent) is an asset.

Application Instructions

For more information about the department and how to apply, visit The Department of Animal Biosciences' Graduate Studies page.

Please contact twidowsk@uoguelph.ca with your unofficial transcript, cv and statement of interest. Use the subject heading – MSc Opportunity on Perching Behaviour.