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Heterosexual Dominance and Mating Behavior in Chickens 1

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In a flock of chickens the cocks have a social organization distinct from that among the hens. Although the males usually do not peck the females they appear to dominate them. An experiment was devised in an effort to determine whether the social dominance of males over females exerts any influence on success in mating. With the use of capons an experimental heterosexual peck-order was formed. Capons which were socially inferior to some of the females were injected with an estrogen, which restored treading and copulation without any evident increase in aggressiveness. It was found that social dominance by the hormonally treated capons over the females was not essential for treading and copulation although it did facilitate mating. Observations of unisexual matings among hens or among cockerels also suggest that the individual taking the male role was more successful in attempts to mate with its inferiors than with its social superiors. These results along with others presented in the discussion give indications that the passive dominance of normal cocks over the hens in well integrated flocks facilitates mating.

Affiliations: 1: Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station

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