Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Surface temperature elevated by chronic and intermittent stress

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Katherine Herborn



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 The Authors Stress in homeothermic animals is associated with raised body core temperature and altered patterns of peripheral blood flow. During acute stress, peripheral vasoconstriction causes a short-lived drop in surface temperature that can be detected non-invasively using infrared thermography (IRT). Whether and how skin temperature changes under chronic stress, and hence the potential of IRT in chronic stress detection, is unknown. We explored the impact of withdrawing environmental enrichments and intermittent routine handling on long-term skin temperature in laying hens (Gallus gallus domesticus). Immediately following enrichment withdrawal, comb, face and eye temperature dropped, suggesting this was acutely stressful. In the 3 weeks that followed, barren-housed hens displayed behavioural markers of frustration. Whilst control birds, housed in enriched conditions, showed a decline over weeks in both comb temperature and baseline corticosterone levels, barren-housed hens had no change in comb temperature and an increase in corticosterone. By the trial end, comb temperature (but not corticosterone) was significantly higher in barren-housed hens. This change in parameters over time may reflect cumulative impacts of enrichment withdrawal in barren pens and/or, as hens were young and maturing, age-related changes in controls. Comb, face and eye temperature were also higher on days following routine handling, and comb temperature higher on other days in hens that were regularly handled for blood sampling than for a less intensive weighing protocol. Together, these data support comb, face and eye surface temperature increase as a long-term marker of stress exposure in laying hens. It is important to recognise that the strength and even direction of these effects may vary with thermoregulatory and energetic context. However, in laboratory and indoor-reared farm animals that live in carefully managed environments, IRT of the skin can potentially be used to non-invasively monitor chronic and intermittent stress exposure.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Herborn KA, Jerem P, Nager RG, McKeegan DEF, McCafferty DJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Physiology and Behavior

Year: 2018

Volume: 191

Pages: 47-55

Print publication date: 01/07/2018

Online publication date: 06/04/2018

Acceptance date: 03/04/2018

Date deposited: 31/05/2018

ISSN (print): 0031-9384

ISSN (electronic): 1873-507X

Publisher: Elsevier Inc.


DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.04.004


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name