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Variations in the Development of Broodiness in Fowl

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image of Behaviour

The tendency of 14 Cochin Bantam hens to adopt chicks was tested by confining hens and chicks together in 50 by 50 by 150 cm. runways in a brooder house. The maternal behavior of the hens developed slowly and manifested itself in 4 definite stages, each stage separated by one or more days from those following it. These stages are: (1) brooding; (2) titbitting; (3) clucking; and (4) normal broody behavior. When stage 4 was reached, clucking continued for 10 days or more even if the chicks were removed. None of the hens ever developed an incubation patch nor adopted the broody posture to a normal extent. The socially dominant hens were slower to accept chicks than their less aggressive sisters. When the chicks were accepted, however, a remarkable uniformity existed in the time required for the non-laying hens to proceed from one stage to the next. Laying hens and immatures were prone to give incomplete responses. When 7 hens were tested simultaneously with the same group of chicks, 3 gave partial response ; the others none. Six hens tested with Mallard ducklings showed less inclination to peck at them and went from stage to stage much more rapidly than hens kept with chicks. One of these omitted stage i entirely.

Affiliations: 1: McDonogh School, McDonogh, Md.


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