Hillary Dalton


Originally from Edmonton, I took my first steps into the world of animal behaviour and welfare in 2010 at the University of Alberta with a BSc specializing in animal biology. After graduation, my growing interest led me to Scotland, where I studied for an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Edinburgh and completed a dissertation on feather pecking in laboratory zebra finches. My thesis examined the role of both environmental enrichment and bird personality on damaging pecking behaviour – research themes that brought me back across the Atlantic in 2012 to study for a PhD in Poultry Behaviour & Welfare at the University of Guelph.

Under the supervision of Dr. Stephanie Torrey, my current doctoral research focuses on behavioural and physical traits associated with injurious pecking in domestic turkeys. Injurious pecking is a leading cause of mortality in commercial turkey production. Pecking injuries often require culling resulting in decreased productivity and representing a significant concern for turkey welfare. My initial study, completed in 2013, concerned the role of leg health and body size uniformity in groups of adult tom turkeys. The study also involved the successful validation of small HOBO G Pendant accelerometers for step detection in both juvenile and adult turkeys.

My current research focuses on quantifying the amount of genetic variation in beak morphology of domestic turkeys. The area is important from both a business and welfare perspective as sufficient genetic variation in beak shape may allow future breeding strategies to select for birds with blunter beaks. This research could eliminate the need to beak trim - reducing destructive pecking injuries and, ultimately, improving bird welfare.