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Experiments On the Relationship Between the Hen and Chick (Gallus Gallus): the Role of the Auditory Mode in Recognition and the Effects of Maternal Separation

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In a series of 6 experimental studies, the means by which a chick recognises its mother, and the reversibility of filial attachments were examined using bantam hens and their chicks. In a simultaneous discrimination test it was determined that the chick could discriminate between own and alien hens by means of the hens' cluck vocalizations, on the 4th and 8th days post hatching, (Experiment 1). The chicks could make this discrimination more efficiently when live hens were presented (Experiment 2). On separating the hen and chicks for 4 h on the 4th day, the chicks could no longer discriminate between own and an alien live hen (Experiment 3) while they would accept an alien hen, (Experiment 4). These findings suggest that maternal-filial bonds may be reversed with little difficulty. Thus Experiment 5 was designed to examine the stability of these later maternal filial bonds. Chicks spent the first 3 days post hatching, with the hen who incubated the eggs. Then they spent 3 days with an alien hen, after which 3 days isolation followed. It was found that chicks could discriminate in favour of their own hen after the first period of exposure, and in favour of the alien hen after the second period of exposure. Following 3 days isolation they showed no preference for either hen. Experiment 6 was essentially a replication of Experiment 5, but included a control for familiarity. Only one test took place after the 3 days isolation. The chicks were presented with the 1st 2nd and an unfamiliar alien hen. The chicks did not discriminate in favour of any particular hen. It is concluded that after 4 h or 3 days isolation, the chicks did not discriminate between the hens presented, yet they remained responsive to hens.

Affiliations: 1: (Ballyrichard House, Arklow, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

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