Noise of chicks ‘turns off’ broody in­stinct

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Q If I put some eggs un­der a known good broody, how does she know how long to sit? A Vic­to­ria says: There is pure in­stinct work­ing here. A hen goes broody when her hor­mones tell her to. Usu­ally if she thinks she has laid a clutch, she stops lay­ing and sits on the eggs, turn­ing them sev­eral times a day and tak­ing about 15 min­utes each day to defe­cate, eat and drink. She will sit on them un­til she hears cheep­ing — with chick­ens this is around day 19 as they hatch on day 21. With ducks, the broody hen or duck will hear the duck­lings at around day 26 as they hatch on day 28. The hen talks back to the emer­gent chicks and their cheeps turn her brood­ing in­stinct into the ma­ter­nal pro­tec­tive in­stinct. Thus it is the noise of the chicks that de­ter­mines how long she will brood the eggs.

A chick’s cheep will turn a hen’s brood­ing in­stinct into the ma­ter­nal pro­tec­tive in­stinct

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