Chemosensory learning in the chicken embryo

H. Sneddon, R. Hadden, Peter Hepper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Examined how exposure to a chemosensory stimulus prior to hatching affects subsequent chemosensory preferences of newly hatched chicks. The chicks' preferences were assessed at 2 days after hatching using an olfactory preference test (strawberry-smelling shavings vs water-coated shavings) and at 4 days after hatching using a gustatory preference test (strawberry-flavoured water vs unflavoured water). With no exposure to strawberry before hatching, strawberry was highly aversive to chicks after hatching. However, following exposure to strawberry before hatching, chicks expressed a greater preference for (or weaker aversion to) the strawberry stimulus. Chicks exposed to strawberry before hatching drank more strawberry-flavoured water and spent more time in a strawberry-scented area than chicks having no exposure before hatching. This change in preference was specific to the stimulus experienced before hatching and was present in the absence of any posthatching exposure to the stimulus. Results demonstrate that a chick's chemosensory preferences are changed as a result of experience with a stimulus before hatching and are suggestive of learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-139
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology & Behaviour
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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