Reproductive Behaviordiagram of poultry sexual behavior

First, the male will try to attract the female’s attention using courtship displays. They are usually complex and can include a precopulatory waltz, wing flapping, vocalizations, specific postures, spreading of feathers to increase perceived size, and stressing of plumage characteristics.


Once he has succeeded in interesting a female, he will then utter a growl as he approaches the female with a side-step to mount her. The male will use his beak to grasp the back of her head, while orienting his cloaca towards hers. If the female is receptive, she will squat during this process. The male will tread while mounted on the female’s back, which can be dangerous if the spurs are too long. He then will ejaculate, dismount to ruffle his feathers, and walk away.

Male Competition

The following video depicts two males fighting over resources.


Egg Hatching

It is interesting to note that the frequency of mating increases as the day progresses. To complement this, testosterone levels rise in the male throughout the day, and larger volumes of semen are ejaculated in the afternoon. Additionally, females usually lay in the morning. Though these two facts seem to point to the conclusion that males mate in the afternoon because females do not have an egg impeding the reproductive tract, it is false. Females actually have sperm host glands that maintain sperm until the oviduct is clear of a forming egg, so the sperm can fertilize the yolk in the infundibulum.  Therefore, it does not matter what time mating occurs, although the trend does exist. The reason that females lay in the morning, is that oviposition (laying the egg) occurs in response to longer photoperiods (day length).  The female lays her first egg in the morning, then, it takes 24.5 hours until the next is formed. After the previous egg is laid, the next ovulation takes about .5 hours, therefore, eggs are laid at 25 hour intervals. So, the eggs will be laid later and later in the day, until it becomes to late in the day, the ovulation will not be triggered, and consequently, the egg laying skips a day.

Ingestive Behavior

Chicks cannot recognize food sources as hatching. They learn to determine what is food and foraging behavior from the hen. Foraging is the act of searching for food. It consists of pecking and scratching the ground, representing anywhere from 7%-25% of the animal’s daily routine. Diet selection is important; chickens prefer a particle size of 2-3 mm, bright light, while color, taste, and smell also influence their choice. Chickens feed in groups, a behavioral remnant for survival in the wild.


Feather Pecking

Feather pecking is a basal activity in poultry. It is a continuum, ranging from social grooming to cannibalism. In a social grooming setting, feather pecking would be used to remove dirt, parasites, or othermatter from the skin, feathers, and to strengthen bond.


Cannibalistic Behavior

Feather pecking can escalate into cannibalistic behavior, especially when accompanied by environmental stressors. The severity can range from pulling out feathers to pecking conspecifics to death. Stressors include boredom, high stocking density, inadequate lighting, nutritional imbalances, and molting. It seems to be a displacement behavior from their natural need to forage, and can be reduced if loose hay or leafy vegetables are available for consumption. In many situations, chickens’ natural curiosity coupled with contrast in color leads to destructive pecking as in the situations of molting and vent pecking. In the video, notice how the hen localizes her pecking at the denuded area of the rooster, and the rooster's reaction.


Egg Cannibalism

The following depicts egg eating, a form of cannibalismin poultry. The birds will eat a cracked egg, but will leave the eggs that are not cracked alone.

Poultry behavior when presented with an egg that is not cracked.


Notice the difference when the egg is cracked.


This next clip shows that even with egg contents on the shell, the birds will not crack the egg to eat it.