Domestic Chickens (Gallus gallus) have been artificially selected to efficiently produce eggs and meat for a very long time. However, they are a wonderful organism in which to study the interactions of hormones and behavior.
Chickens have distinctive, quantifiable "personalities" that help predict how they respond to stressors and social challenges — tonic immobility, open field and novel object are some of the many behavioral tests we conduct with chickens. Individual variation in these behaviors can be modified by developmental exposure to hormones.
The Benowitz-Fredericks lab studies maternal effects, specifically: the effects of differential exposure to yolk steroids, which are hormones deposited into eggs by laying female chickens. We assess the contribution of these maternal effects to phenotypic variation in behavior and physiology, investigating the interactions of sex, pre-natal environment and post-natal environment that help shape offspring phenotype.