PhD position OT-21909

PhD on cage-free reproduction in poultry


Back to jobs listing

INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) is a major player in research and innovation. It is a community of 12,000 people with 272 research, experimental research, and support units located in 18 regional centres throughout France. Internationally, INRAE is among the top research organisations in the agricultural and food sciences, plant and animal sciences, as well as in ecology and environmental science. It is the world’s leading research organisation specialising in agriculture, food and the environment. INRAE’s goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. Faced with a growing world population, climate change, resource scarcity, and declining biodiversity, the Institute has a major role to play in building solutions and supporting the necessary acceleration of agricultural, food and environmental transitions.

Work environment, missions and activities

You will work in the GENUTS team (Genetics, Nutrition, Systems), one of the three teams of the BOA Research Unit (Biology of Birds and Poultry) on the Nouzilly site, under the responsibility of Mme S. Grasteau. The unit conducts research into the biology of farmed birds, from the molecular level to the animal in its environment. Its aim is to generate knowledge in the fields of physiology and genetics, and to contribute to the agroecological transition of breeding systems (respect for the environment, animal welfare, product quality). The GENUTS team focuses on genetic and nutritional levers for improving poultry rearing systems. It currently has a staff of 20.

You will be involved in work on the evolution of poultry reproduction to cage-free systems. The doctoral thesis for which you will be responsible is entitled " Cage-free poultry breeding: understanding and acting on reproductive behaviour to maintain the genetic diversity of breeding lines ". Traditional methods of selecting poultry lines in individual cages enable to control a key factor in reproduction: the pairing of breeders, and therefore the management of genetic diversity. The end of cage age requires broilers breeders to freely reproduce on the floor where uncontrolled natural selection on reproduction (or sexual selection) is added to the artificial selection controlled by breeders during artificial selection.  In this thesis project, we propose to understand how the behaviours expressed by males during reproduction impact on the genetic diversity of breeding lines and, if necessary, to offer solutions against this loss of diversity. We will use three strains of broiler chickens with contrasting growth rates as a model to determine whether our results are broad or specific to certain genetics. For each strain, we will evaluate how the males' free reproduction on the ground impacts (i) their mating with numerous females, (ii) their mating with more fertile females, and (iii) the fertilization of a large proportion of the eggs laid by these females, three key steps to maintain genetic diversity of the offspring. We will then measure how the various stages of uncontrolled selection operate on male sexual traits by estimating selection gradients. Finally, we will test how to optimize the social composition of groups of breeding males to ensure that paternity is distributed as evenly as possible, and thus maintain the genetic and phenotypic diversity of lines under selection.

You will be responsible for:

  • Setting up and monitoring the experimental phase of part of the project
  • Image analysis (comb traits via machine learning) and video analysis (reproductive behaviour)
  • Phenotypic and genetic analysis of data
  • Drafting of scientific articles resulting from the project

- Presentations in French and English at various events and conferences

Work partly in an experimental farm

Training and skills

Master's degree/Engineering degree
  • Recommended training: Masters in behavioural science and/or animal production, or Agronomic Engineering degree.
  • Desired skills: Behavioural science, data analysis, poultry farming, genetics, fluency in English
  • Experience appreciated: a previous internship in the field
  • Desired skills: Precision, meticulousness and rigor; Ability to work in a team; Autonomy in actions; Ability to adapt; Interest for behavioural analysis via video.

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from (depending on the type of contract and its duration):

- up to 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: trainingcareer advise;
social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

How to apply

I send my CV and my motivation letter

Offer reference

  • Contract: PhD position
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Beginning: 01/10/2024
  • Remuneration: 2100€ gross
  • Reference: OT-21909
  • Deadline: 06/06/2024


Living in France and working at INRAE Our guide for international scientists

Learn more