Cooperative Behavior?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Shadrach, Jan 22, 2019.

  1. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

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    I’ve been watching something here that I have never seen before.
    A pullet called Knock who belongs to a group I call Tribe 3, decided that the nest box in my house is where she wanted to lay her eggs. How she knew the nest box was there and why she chose it in preference to the nest boxes her tribe usually use is a bit of a mystery.
    I didn’t see her journey to the nest box the first visit. One day I looked and there she was.
    The nest box in my house is most definitely the territory of another group I call Tribe 1. There are four groups here currently.
    I have watched other hens form other tribes attempt to lay eggs in Tribe 1‘s territory. What usually happens is one of the senior hens drives the interloper out. The interloper then calls for her rooster, if he isn’t already there, and they go and look for another site. This may involve traveling across other tribes territories and this means there is always potential for fighting between the escorting rooster and the roosters of the tribes territory they cross. Often an unescorted hen is ‘fair game’ in the eyes of roosters from other tribes, particularly in the eyes of any cockerels without their own hens in the territory the hen crosses.
    I’ve watched this hen Knock make her way from her own tribes territory to the nest box in my house a few times now and I’ve been fascinated by this journey which may involve moving across an acre and half of land.

    What happens is Knock sets off with her rooster Notch who escorts her to the edge of Tribe 1s territory or to where Tribe 1 are on route.
    When Notch and Knock approach Tribe 1, Cillin, the senior rooster of Tribe 1 and often Treacle, the tribes cockerel move away from their hens and ‘meet’ Notch and Knock from Tribe 3. While both tribe roosters make ‘that’s close enough’ warning calls and frantically peck at the ground and make feint combat bursts towards each other, they don’t fight.
    Cillin makes a couple of herding shuffles around Knock and then escorts her away from Notch her rooster. I have never seen him make any attempt to mate with Knock; he just escorts her past his hens and often all the way to the nest box. In effect the two roosters who under normal circumstances don’t get on cooperate in escorting Knock to the nest.
    There is a changeover in escort duties. Treacle, the cockerel of Tribe 1 who does not have his own hens doesn’t molest Knock either. In fact he is often the one who hangs around while Knock lays her egg while Cillin returns to his hens.
    Normally the hens of one tribe will not tolerate a hen from another tribe close to their rooster and won’t tolerate a hen from another tribe making nests in their coops and territory. There are ‘gray’ areas outside but coops are defended.
    The hens in Tribe 1 haven’t driven Knock away. In fact, one hen from Tribe 1 who also lays is the nest box in y house has stood faily patiently below this nest box waiting her turn.

    Once Knock has laid her egg she gives the escort call and both Cillin and Notch respond. Cillin will come to the door of my house and escort Knock to the edge of Tribe 1‘s territory or to wherever Notch is waiting. Notch then escorts Knock back to the rest of his tribe and often mates with Knock. Neither Cillin or Treacle have made any attempt to mate with Knock.
    It makes sense for Notch to escort Knock because he is protecting his genes. It doesn’t make any sense for Cillin to take up the escort duties if he has no genetic investment in the hen and isn’t actively looking to increase the number of hens in his tribe.
    On the face of it this is cooperation between Tribes/flocks/groups with the interests of the species foremost. That has some serious implications.
    Given this has happened a number of times it implies there could be an agreed arrangement between the two roosters and what I find even more interesting is Treacle, who doesn’t have his own hens isn’t making any attempts to mate with Knock.
    Anyway, here are some pictures of the exchange taking place.

    Notch and Knock in the background approaching Tribe 1.
    P1221290.jpg

    Tribe 1 moving away from Notch and Knock to keep close to Cillin, their rooster.
    P1221294.jpg

    Notch leaves Knock at this point and returns to his hens.
    P1221296.jpg

    Cillin is already in the house and Treacle follows as rearguard.
    P1221298.jpg

    Treacle herding Knock, but not showing any intention of mating.
    P1221300.jpg

    Cillin herding Knock but not showing any intention of mating.
    P1221304.jpg

    Cillin below the nest box semi squatting and making encouraging nesting sounds.
    P1221308.jpg

    Knock in the nest box getting settled.
    P1221311.jpg
     

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    Dandelyon, micstrachan, MROO and 10 others like this.
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    Line diagram needed to simplify. One rooster as described acting like a satellite male. Both roosters likely do have role in parentage of young to be produced even if matings not observed. Satellites when I have had them were allowed to mate hens and were apparently valued by harem master as a backup in the event the harem master is removed.
     
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  3. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

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    This is what is so strange. Knock (Tribe 3) only mates with her rooster (Tribe 3). I know this for a fact.
    Neither the rooster or the cockerel from Tribe 1 have ever mated with Knock.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    Any genetic markers to confirm parentage? It takes only one mating to get sperm into her reproductive tract.
     
  5. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

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    The hen in question is in fact a pullet. (I probably should have stated this in the OP)
    She has only been laying for eight days.
    Her tribe occupy an area 400 metres from my house, but still within earshot.
    The hens don't stray from their group unless they are going to lay. This is particularly true at the moment because we have goshawks here and the tribes spend most of their day under cover.
    Tribe 1 spend their day just outside my house. When tribes here bump into each other, which is rare, you can hear the roosters making 'your too close' calls for a very long way.
    I'm here all day at the moment and I know where each tribe is just by listening to the rooster calls.
    In the last eight days Tribe 1 hasn't moved from their shelter spots unless it has been to dust bath, which is right outside my window, or to lay eggs; both sites within view of my house.
    One can never be 100% certain about anything but I'm as certain as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow about Knock only mating with her tribes rooster.:)
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    When I see matings not involving the hen / pullets harem master, it is usually discrete and often immediately after the female comes the nest after depositing an egg. The female herself may even try to hide the trist from the harem master she is bonded to.

    There is still the occasional rowdy forced matings imposed when female is not interested and those can result in variations with respect to paternity.

    The pullet moving beyond her harem / tribe home range can also be related to cuckoldery where she lays eggs in nest of another female. Pullets are really prone to that. If at some point she switches over to laying within her harems home range, then cuckoldery is what she is up to now.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    I have genetic markers that can make parentage known.
     
  8. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

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    That's a good idea.
    In this instance I will not be allowing her to sit and hatch. I don't have the coop space.
    If she survives until late summer and shows signs of wanting to sit I might have space by then.
     
  9. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician

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    Subscribed - Shad, I love your pictures of birds and their environment.
     
  10. Fields Mountain Farm

    Fields Mountain Farm Beyond Poultry Dome

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    Subscribed as well.. Im interested in how this plays out.. I have no comments on it at the moment tho, Im here to learn more about what certain behaviors actually mean in my flock verses what I have always believed they mean.
    Love the pics too Shad! :love
     

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