Chicken Brained? No.

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Hen-Gen
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Chicken Brained? No.

Post by Hen-Gen » Thu Jul 12, 2018 6:55 pm

I like to think that after years of chicken keeping and an educational grounding in genetics that I know more " than the man on the Clapham omnibus " about chickens. But one thing has baffled me for years so I have to ask for other peoples theories!

It is my custom to hatch my own eggs alongside eggs bought from eBay. This year bought in eggs are Araucanas, Cream Legbars and Barnevelders. All eggs are incubated in the same incubator and reared together. But it has become quite apparent to me that as they mature they are able to recognise their own siblings. They flock together at times of stress, they move as a group from the rearing shed into the attached run and show, as they mature, aggression to the members of other breeds.
With regards to humans they say that it is a wise man who knows his own father. If that is true then chickens are candidates for joining Mensa.
Any explanations welcome!
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rick
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by rick » Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:42 pm

That's really interesting (I haven't got a clue!)
The familiarity and almost un-noticable pecking order that I saw between my brown hybrids I put down to familiarity right from chicks. There was, of course, no reason that they should have the same parents when drawn from a commercial batch though no doubt very closely related to their standard super granny!
As they will happily sit on the eggs of any hen in the flock I can't think why they would have evolved a particular affinity with genetic siblings. The same farther though perhaps? For some reason??

... maybe some advantage to paternal sibling hens staying together when they leave the flock for new territory? Totally buskin' here :)
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by Marigold » Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:41 pm

I would imagine they're recognising their own breed characteristics, eg tendency to recognise similarities of size, colour, shape, and maybe temperament. I do know from experience that if you introduce a new bird who is a colour that the others haven't seen before, they can get quite racist about it, especially if the original ones are dark coloured, fairly portly breeds and the newcomer is a flighty white leghorn, for example.
As for 'They flock together at times of stress, they move as a group from the rearing shed into the attached run and show, as they mature, aggression to the members of other breeds." - sounds to me very like the avian equivalent to some of our worst human tendencies.
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LadyA
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by LadyA » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:45 pm

I know that at one stage a few years ago, I had a flock of mixed colours. Brown girls, a few speckledys, a couple of cuckoo coloured hybrids and a beautiful black hen. They got along alright during the day and mixed well enough, but at night, they perched in their colour groups! Very odd. And when the black hen had an overnight total moult and woke up completely bald, she was so badly bullied, she had to hide in a spare coop - I even had to feed and water her in there. The others wouldn't tolerate her at all. And gosh, she looked a sight when her feathers started to come through - like something from a horror movie! Once her feathers came back, the others accepted her again with no problems.
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by rick » Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:20 pm

Hmmm.. They are clearly sensitive, often aggressively so, to hens of a different breed/colour. They say that chickens can remember the pecking order of 100 individuals when we would struggle to tell them apart. But did you mean siblings particularly Hen-Gen? That within a breed hatched/raised together (or at least amongst similar colours) that they group with their closest relatives?

It is very intriguing the more I think about it - I mean, they don't often get the chance to look in a mirror but my two pencil grey topped legbars are closer pals than my slightly warmer flecked one even though the two closest have very different combs and thats he most striking difference between the three.
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by Marigold » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:43 am

I was wondering how each bird knows what she herself looks like, so she is able to flock with similar others? There must be something going on as well as colour, to enable her to choose which group to bond with initially.
Unless there are full-length mirrors in the run - anybody tried giving them a mirror to see how they react?
The colour thing does wear off once they're integrated. Mine are now roosting out of the coop on a high perch and every night I see them in a line, 2 dark ones alternating with two white leghorns and the columbine somewhere in the middle or at an end. It's not the same sequence every night, which is a bit surprising, but I suppose competition for the best position is less on a long level perch up in the air.
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by Hen-Gen » Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:24 am

Some good ideas. But I would add that I have done matings where the chicks of one or two parental types have come in a variety of colours.
For example by mating the daughters from a Silver Duckwing Cock to Blue Jersey Giant Hens back to their father you get chicks of four different colours. But the black chicks from this mating would rather hang out with their different coloured siblings than the chicks of Black Minorcas that were hatched along side them.
We know that if hatched in different incubators then they can recognise their siblings because they call to each other from the eggs before they hatch. But if they are all hatched in the same incubator then the thot plickens.
Personally I think they possess a skill that we have lost so that when they grow up they can avoid mating with their brothers and sisters (unless they have no choice) to avoid the dangers of inbreeding. But how they do this? Well that's a mystery.
Last edited by Hen-Gen on Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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LadyA
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by LadyA » Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:39 am

Hen-Gen wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:24 am
Some good ideas. But I would add that I have done matings where the chicks of one or two parental types have come in a variety of colours, eg the back cross of a Silver Duckwing Welsummer to a Blue Jersey Giant, but they still recognise their siblings above unrelated chicks of a similar colour.
How strange! I'm sure there is a lot of good research that could be done around this, Hen-Gen.
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Re: Chicken Brained? No.

Post by Margaid » Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:22 pm

There is a really odd thing that happens with people who were adopted as children. Somehow, without any words spoken about it adult adoptees recognise each other and "chum up" really quickly. There were some experiments done which proved it, but I've seen it happen - twice, with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. The second time being with his new partner ...
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