Dr Victoria Sandilands

Research Interests

Vicky SandilandsMy research interests relate to housing and management of poultry in ways that are sensitive to their needs while being sustainable in UK farming. Much of my work is conducted under government grants (both Scottish Government and Defra), but increasingly my work involves collaboration with well-known poultry companies, animal welfare organisations, and industry councils.  The advantage of working in the poultry industry is that it is a relatively intimate group of people, and I like to think we are working towards similar goals in many instances.

Recently, I have been working on housing non-beak trimmed hens in furnished cages, humane methods of poultry culling, how to manage non-beak trimmed hens in furnished cages, whole-house gassing of poultry, and using a force plate to measure walking style in broiler (meat) chickens. All of the studies I’m involved in are a team effort with fellow members of ASRC, and often with other members of the Animal and Veterinary Sciences Research Group.

In addition to my research, I am an active committee member of the World’s Poultry Science Association and the International Society for Applied Ethology.

PhD Students

  • Jessica Hopkins - Humane mechanical methods for killing poultry
  • Krysta Morrisey - Behavioural and nutritional management of non-beak trimmed hens in large furnished cages

Research Projects

  • Assessing welfare of poultry from different housing systems using neurogenesis markers. BBSRC 2012-2015
  • Reducing pain: how to manage non-beak trimmed hens in furnished cages. Scottish Government 2011-2016
  • On-farm culling of poultry. Defra 2010-2013
  • Moving beyond the battery cage in Scotland: the effect of perches on laying hens.  Scottish Government 2006 – 2011
  • Review of data on infra red beak treatment on domestic poultry. BEIC/RSPCA 2008
  • Humane culling of poultry during a disease outbreak. Scottish Government 2005-2007
  • Welfare of hens in enriched cages.  DEFRA 2005–2008
  • Health and welfare of organic pullets.  LINK project 2005–2008
  • Alternative methods to feeding broiler breeders.  DEFRA 2002-2005
  • Welfare of laying hens at depopulation. DEFRA 2002-2007
  • Objectively measuring broiler leg health.  DEFRA 2001-2002, 2005-2008 and 2009-2012


I am course leader for the behaviour and welfare, and poultry production, modules on SRUC’s MSc in Applied Poultry Science. On an annual basis, I supervise Honours and Masters students from various institutes on poultry behaviour and welfare projects, usually conducted at the research facilities at the Avian Science Research Centre. I am also a guest lecturer on the University of Edinburgh’s Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare MSc, where I was once a student. (What goes around, comes around!)

Selected Publications

  • Buckley L, Sandilands V, Hocking P, Tolkamp B, D'eath R (2012) The use of conditioned place preference to determine broiler preferences for quantitative or qualitative dietary restriction. British Poultry Science 53: 291-306
  • Buckley LA, Sandilands V, Tolkamp BJ, D'Eath RB (2011) Quantifying hungry broiler breeder dietary preferences using a closed economy T-maze task. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 133: 216-227
  • Dunn IC, Wilson PW, Smulders TV, Sandilands V, D'Eath RB, Boswell T (2013) Hypothalamic agouti-related protein expression is affected by both acute and chronic experience of food restriction and re-feeding in chickens. Journal of Neuroendocrinology 25: 920-928
  • Sandilands V, Brocklehurst S, Sparks N, Baker L, McGovern R, Thorp B, Pearson D (2011) Assessing leg health in chickens using a force plate and gait scoring: how many birds is enough? Veterinary Record 168: 77
  • Sandilands V, Raj ABM, Baker L, Sparks NHC (2011) Aversion of chickens to various lethal gas mixtures. Animal Welfare 20: 253-262
  • McKeegan DEF, Sparks NHC, Sandilands V, Demmers TGM, Boulcott P, Wathes CM (2011) Physiological responses of laying hens during whole-house killing with carbon dioxide. Brit Poult Sci 52: 645-657
  • Hall, C., and V. Sandilands. (2007) Public attitudes to the welfare of broiler chickens. Animal Welfare 16:499-512
  • Raj, A. B. M., V. Sandilands, and N. H. C. Sparks (2006) Gaseous methods of killing poultry on farm for disease control purposes– a review. Veterinary Record 159: 229-235
  • Sandilands, V., B. J. Tolkamp, C. J. Savory, and I. Kyriazakis (2006) Behaviour and welfare of broiler breeders fed qualitatively restrictive diets during rearing: are there alternatives to quantitative restriction? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 96:53-67
  • Sandilands, V., B. J. Tolkamp, and I. Kyriazakis. (2005) Behaviour of food restricted broilers during rearing and lay - effects of an alternative feeding method. Physiology and Behavior 85:115-123
  • Sandercock, D.A., Auckburally, A., Flaherty, D., Sandilands, V. and McKeegan D.E.F. (2014) Avian reflex and electroencephalogram responses in different states of consciousness.  Physiology & Behaviour 133: 252-259 Full Text

Dr Victoria Sandilands

Behavioural Scientist

Address: Animal & Veterinary Sciences, SRUC Avian Science Research Centre, Auchincruive, Ayr KA6 5HW

Telephone: 01292 525 421

Fax: 01292 525 098

E-mail: vicky.sandilands@sruc.ac.uk