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Dr Laura Dixon

Research Scientist
Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Research interests 

I am interested in the study of animal behaviour and the ways in which this knowledge can be used to improve animal welfare. This includes:

  • Assessing motivation and factors that can influence that motivation. Currently we are studying hunger in broiler breeders and looking for methods to decrease hunger and improve welfare.
  • Using sleep as a welfare indicator. This work is in it’s early stages and pilot data is being collected from broiler breeders being fed different quantities and qualities of diets.
  • Improving housing and management of captive animals to improve their welfare, especially in laying hens, broiler breeders and pet rabbits.
  • The effects of early life experiences on the behaviour of poultry.
  • Using positive welfare indicators to assess and improve overall welfare.

Selected research projects

  • Investigating how the type and quantity of food affect foraging behaviour and the neural circuits controlling feeding in broiler breeder chickens
    BBSRC funded project in collaboration with Roslin Institute and Newcastle University
  • Quantifying the subjective state of feed restricted broiler chickens using behavioural and neurochemical measures
    Defra funded project in collaboration with Roslin Institute and Newcastle University
  • Livestock Welfare: Being fit for life - Optimising behavioural and stress reactivity
    Scottish Government WP2.4. I reviewed published literature and compiled a database on the maternal and incubation effects on poultry offspring.


I teach a variety of poultry related modules at MSc, BSc and HNC levels. These include poultry welfare and behaviour, avian physiology and meat and egg production systems. The teaching is mainly done in a distance learning format.

PhD students

  • Gillian Cherrie
    Understanding Satiety in Broiler Breeders during Rearing and Application to Commercial Diets 

Selected publications

  • Dixon, L.M., Sparks, N.H.C., Rutherford, K.M.D. 2016. Early experiences matter: a review of the effects of prenatal environment on offspring characteristics on poultry. Poultry Science. 95: 489-99.
  • Dixon, L.M., Brocklehurst, S., Sandilands, V., Bateson, M., Tolkamp, B.J., D’Eath, R.B. 2014. Measuring motivation for appetitive behaviour: Food-restricted broiler breeder chickens can cross a water barrier to forage in an area of wood shavings without food. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102322. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102322
  • Dixon, L.M., Sandilands, V., Bateson, M., Brocklehurst, S., Tolkamp, B.J., D’Eath R.B. 2013. Conditioned place preference or aversion as animal welfare assessment tools: Limitations in their application. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 148, 164-176.
  • Dixon, L.M. 2012. Environmental enrichment and practical applications for welfare in production agriculture. CAB Reviews, 7, 1-18.
  • Dixon, L.M., Hardiman, J.R., and Cooper, J.J.  2010. The effects of spatial restriction on the behaviour of pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 5, 302-308.

See all of Dr Laura Dixon's publications.

Dr Laura Dixon

Address: Temple Mount, MSRC, SRUC Auchincruive

Telephone: 01292 525 230