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On the Acoustic Basis of Recognition of the Mother Hen By the Chick in the Domestic Fowl (Gallus Gallus)

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The maternal cluck vocalizations of the bantam hen were examined using a sonagraph. 3 consecutive clucks from each of 6 hens were examined. Eight physical parameters from each vocalization were measured directly from the spectrograms, namely duration of the cluck, maximum frequency at the beginning of the cluck, maximum absolute frequency of the cluck, maximum frequency at the end of the cluck, positive pitch change, negative pitch change, positive slope and negative slope. The coefficient of variation of these parameters show considerable variation between the clucks (Table 1). A two-way ANOVA shows that this variation is due to differences between the hens and not to differences between consecutive clucks of the same hen. The differences between hens was significant on 4 of the 8 parameters measured. The correlations between two consecutive clucks from each of the 6 hens was statistically significant for 3 of the 8 parameters (Table 2). Further no significant differences were found between clucks recorded on day 3 and clucks recorded on day 9 (Table 3). The measures of slope are correlated with the duration of the slope and with the duration of the cluck showing that as changes occur in one parameter corresponding changes will take place in another parameter. Thus the chick may utilize a gestalt of 2 or more parameters of the cluck to recognize the mother hen. The maternal cluck is of a significantly longer duration and dclivered at a slower rate than the maternal food call. They are two distinct calls. The results suggest that there is sufficient variability between the clucks of different hens for the chick to discriminate between her own mother and an alien hen on the basis of cluck vocalizations. The similarity between successive clucks and between clucks of the same hen recorded on different days suggest that the chick should be able to learn the individual characteristics of the hens maternal cluck, and thus use them for recognition of mother hen.

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


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