Tidbitting - What It Is and Why Chickens Do It

Have you ever noticed a mother hen cluck in a series of high-pitched notes while she's scratching in the dirt and then drop something onto the ground? She's doing what is known as "tidbitting".

According to Australian researchers Prof. Chris Evans and Dr. K-lynn Smith, tidbitting is a multi-modal referential signal, usually both vocal and visual, which increases with highly preferred food. 

In simple layman's terms, that means that when a mother hen sees a tasty seed or bug, she will start making a series of high-pitched clucks to call her chicks over. 

She will then drop the piece of food at the feet of one of the chicks to encourage it to try it. If the chick doesn't respond, she'll pick it up and drop it at the feet of another chick, continuing to drop the treat and cluck encouragingly until one chick is brave enough to give it a taste.

Her level of excitement, both in the shrillness of the clucks and the intensity and frequency of the clucks will correspond with how excited she is about the treat. 

At our coop, chick feed rates only a moderately excited response, while raw oats, mealworms or a tasty berry really rachets up the excitement level.

Roosters will tidbit also. A rooster will drop a particularly tasty bug or seed at the foot of a favorite hen, then bob his head and make the same throaty clucking sound while hopping excitedly from one foot to another. It's quite a sight to behold actually, and very chivalrous, if you ask me. 

And apparently it does impress the ladies, according to research studies. (As a side note, a large, dark red comb and wattles also seems to do the trick where the ladies are concerned!)

So next time you're hanging out with your chickens and happen to have friends over, you can just casually mention tidbitting during the conversation and amaze everyone with your vast knowledge of chicken behavior.

Watch as Abigail clucks away, pointing out tasty treats for her Littles!

Watch Annie tidbitting for her chicks in 2013--->HERE
And watch Truffle doing the same for her chicks back in 2014---> HERE

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