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Maternal behaviour in domestic hens : does previous incubating and maternal experience influence maternal responsiveness?

Abstract : The experiments presented here were designed to investigate the influence of previous incubating and maternal experience on maternal responsiveness of the hen. During the first experiment, newly-hatched chicks were introduced into the nest of 10 incubating hens (Vedette JV 15 strain). These animals presented immediate maternal responses (brooding, maternal calls) and showed modifications of typical endocrine state, especially a decrease in prolactin concentrations. In a subsequent induction experiment, the 10 previously incubating and maternal hens, (considered to be experienced animals), and 10 naive subjects, from the same flock and of the same age were given chicks in order to provoke the appearance of maternal responses. During this experiment, maternal responses developed progressively in the 20 hens. Experienced hens did not respond differently to chicks than naive hens. In addition, the subjects of both groups presented identical hormone concentrations (prolactin and luteinizing hormone). The influence of previous experience has been demonstrated in species that rear offspring in a nest isolated from conspecifics, and in species where the emergence of an exclusive maternal-filial bond prevents mothers from nursing alien young. In contrast, soon after hatching, the mother hen leaves the nest with her chicks which can therefore find themselves in contact with other adult hens. Consequently, the absence of long-term retention of maternal responsiveness can be interpreted as an adaptative response which prevents experienced hens of the same group from presenting maternal responses towards alien young. This is advantageous because, as we showed in previous papers, the development of maternal responses would provoke the interruption of reproduction in potentially adoptive mothers.
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Gérard Leboucher, Marie-Annick Richard-Yris, John Williams, Arthur Chadwick. Maternal behaviour in domestic hens : does previous incubating and maternal experience influence maternal responsiveness?. Ethology Ecology and Evolution, Taylor & Francis, 1991, 3 (2), pp.101-111. ⟨10.1080/08927014.1991.9525377⟩. ⟨hal-01327846⟩



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