I've seen, read about, or heard several avian courtship dances, flights, songs, and other rituals. They are general very impressive, fancy, and beautiful. Roosters, by comparison, are quite lame. The link is a pretty good example of the sort of best effort I've seen or read about from a rooster. A lot of them seem to do quite a bit less than that.

Some time ago, I remember hearing about the various distinct finch calls, and the fact that these songs seem to be largely a learned behavior. In a modern factory style farm, chicks are usually hatched in an incubator and raised by humans in a brood of similar aged chicks. Some chicks, on more traditional farms perhaps, are raised in more natural settings with a mother hen present, and perhaps a rooster too, but even when a rooster grows up observing his father's behavior frequently, I wonder how often such a parent child example extends beyond just a few generations. In other words, I doubt that any chicken benefits from a long lineage of fine courtiers like their wild finch cousins.

My question then is primarily whether there is potentially a learned component of roosters' dancing, and secondarily whether a lack of sustained parental lineage stunts the development of proper dancing in a rooster. They certainly have some sort of instinct driving them, and they're beautiful birds, but their mojo falls flat compared with more wild relatives, like this pheasant. To avoid soliciting opinion-based answers, I want to focus this question on specific verifiable knowledge. For example:

  1. Are there any actual studies on this topic with roosters or close relatives? Or is there any husbandry knowledge on the subject? For example are specific steps recommended to preserve the beautiful mating behavior of pheasants or pea fowl in captivity?
  2. Is there any evidence of learned avian mating behavior other than song?
  3. Are there any notable recorded differences between the mating dance of an orphan rooster compared with roosters that have grow up with fathers?

Don't feel like you need to address every point for a good answer. I'm just trying to provide a framework for avoiding opinion-based answers.

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the hens think differently and do not see their roosters behaviour as lame? I mean, how is a human supposed to judge? Also, the hens have nothing better to compare to. So why the effort to improve? $\endgroup$ – skymningen Sep 2 '15 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ @skymningen While I can certainly agree that chicken thought is very foreign territory, I do think there is a reasonable case that appreciation of beauty, music, and dance is somewhat shared between our species, the primary evidence being the fact that we do in fact appreciate most of these things in birds. Many have theorized that music and dance are features of bipedal existence. The other evidence is the seriously cool dance of close relatives to chickens. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bailey Sep 2 '15 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ @skymningen I think your point about having no need to improve is probably very accurate as most coops are limited to one rooster. But this goes right along with the point of my inquiry. That limit is part of the artificial bounds we set, and goes hand in hand with the lack of good example from older roosters. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bailey Sep 2 '15 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ I totally agree with you that the appreciation of beauty is shared, my idea is only that the perception of beauty might be completely different. Think of some animals that are attracted to smells or sights which for humans are disgusting. $\endgroup$ – skymningen Sep 3 '15 at 7:35

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