Roosters have a pecking order. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Roosters crow in order of seniority – the top cock announcing
daybreak while juniors patiently wait their turn, a new study revealing a
long-guarded secret of chickendom shows.
We are all familiar
with that first pre-dawn “cock-a-doodle-doo”, quickly followed by others
within hearing distance. But how do cockerels decide who goes first?
They pull rank, according to a set of experiments with captive birds reported in the journal Scientific Reports.
top-ranking rooster always started to crow first, followed by its
subordinates, in descending order of social rank,” wrote the Japanese
authors of the study. “When the top-ranking rooster was physically
removed from a group, the second-ranking rooster initiated crowing.”
is thought to be a means for cockerels to advertise their territory –
limiting the risk of surprise, potentially aggressive encounters.
Chickens are very social and hierarchical animals, and
cockerels, when meeting each other for the first time, quickly settle
their pecking order the old-fashioned way – with a fight.
The strongest, dominant birds subsequently enjoy priority access to food, hens and roosting places.
we show that the top-ranking rooster also has priority to determine the
timing of predawn crowing, and that subordinates are obedient to the
top-ranking rooster in a group situation,” the study said.
research team placed roosters in groups to establish their hierarchy
from the number of sparring victories and losses, then separated them
into individual cages to observe crowing behaviour.
order, they found, was strictly conserved even when the timing of the
dominant rooster was earlier or later than the previous day.