Nest Defense by Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus spadiceus) Hens: The Roles of Renesting Potential, Parental Experience and Brood Reproductive Value


  • Randy Thornhill

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
      Dept. of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A
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Dept. of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A


Reproductive-effort theory predicts that parents of any given age should expend more parental effort (1) as their residual reproductive value declines, and (2) as the reproductive value of offspring increases. An observational and experimental study of nest defense by captive red jungle fowl hens was used to examine these two predictions. Both young and old individuals significantly increased defense of the second nest compared to the first nest within a season; this pattern occurred for the defense of both eggs and chicks. Old hens showed significantly greater defense of both eggs and chicks in each of the nests than did young hens. Both young and old hens were significantly more defensive of chicks than eggs in each of two clutches of a season. Hens also reduced their nest defense significantly at the end of a two to three-day period after their chicks were replaced with eggs, and increased their nest defense after eggs were exchanged for chicks. Hens given four chicks showed more vigorous defense than hens given two chicks. When the brood size of hens with four chicks was reduced to one chick, the hens responded by exhibiting less vigorous nest defense. These patterns of nest defense in jungle fowl were not confounded by parental experience of hens, or differences in offspring quality that are related to time of breeding, maternal age, sire genetic quality or vulnerability of offspring to weather.