Chicken genomics: feather-pecking and victim pigmentation. Academic Article uri icon


  • Feather-pecking in domestic birds is associated with cannibalism and severe welfare problems. It is a dramatic example of a spiteful behaviour in which the victim's fitness is reduced for no immediate direct benefit to the perpetrator and its evolution is unexplained. Here we show that the plumage pigmentation of a chicken may predispose it to become a victim: birds suffer more drastic feather-pecking when the colour of their plumage is due to the expression of a wild recessive allele at PMEL17, a gene that controls plumage melanization, and when these birds are relatively common in a flock. These findings, obtained using an intercross between a domestic fowl and its wild ancestor, have implications for the welfare of domestic species and offer insight into the genetic changes associated with the evolution of feather-pecking during the early stages of domestication.

published proceedings

  • Nature

author list (cited authors)

  • Keeling, L., Andersson, L., Schtz, K. E., Kerje, S., Fredriksson, R., Carlborg, O., ... Jensen, P.

citation count

  • 89

complete list of authors

  • Keeling, Linda||Andersson, Leif||Sch├╝tz, Karin E||Kerje, Susanne||Fredriksson, Robert||Carlborg, Orjan||Cornwallis, Charles K||Pizzari, Tommaso||Jensen, Per

publication date

  • October 2004

published in