Articles | Volume 54, issue 6
10 Oct 2011
 | 10 Oct 2011

Behavioural responses, traumatic injuries and live weight losses in ostrich (Struthio camelus) chicks transported by road during hot-dry conditions

N. S. Minka and J. O. Ayo

Abstract. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of six-hour road transportation on behavioural activities, live weight and traumatic injuries of 40 (20 males and 20 females) ostrich chicks age 3.5 months. The average weight of the birds was 27.7 kg. Four separate journeys were conducted and each vehicle was loaded with 10 ostriches. The behavioural events, environmental data, live weights and traumatic injuries were recorded before, during and after transportation. The result showed that the most stressful behaviours exhibited by the chicks during transportation were hyperventilation (66.7±21.2 %), wing fluffing (65±12.0 %), and prolonged standing (60±15.3 %). The most frequent behaviours per hour of the journey were beak opening (5.9±1.8 bouts), elimination (5.3±2.3 bouts) and pecking (5.6±2.8 bouts). The chicks spent 27.0±11.8, 18.2±1.0, and 17.5±0.1 min per hour of the journey, standing, restless and lying down, respectively. 15.0±2.3 % of the chicks sustained mild injuries during handling and loading. The birds lost 6.5±1.4 % of their live weight after transportation. The relationships between the journey period, temperature humidity index (THI) and stressful behaviours of wing fluffing, pecking, hyperventilation (beak opening) and lying down recorded during the transportation was positive and significant (P<0.01), while behaviours of standing, elimination and restlessness were negatively and significantly (P<0.01) correlated. Student's t-test and Pearson’s correlation test were employed in the statistical analysis. The results suggest that THI of 33–40 °C constitutes moderate risk, while that of 47 °C and above may result in severe stressful behaviours, and this may be considered as recommended ranges and limits of thermal load values in transported chicks. In conclusion, six hours road transportation during hot-dry conditions and the introduction of ostrich chicks into a new environment post-transportation induce behavioural stress.