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MM 42

Imprinting

by | Feb 16, 2021 | Meyer Moment

Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about waterfowl imprinting. If you have ever seen adorable ducklings following their mother in a perfect line, or a chick peeking from underneath its mother, you have witnessed the phenomenon of imprinting. Imprinting is the natural process of an animal becoming bonded to its caretaker. Whether this caretaker is its own species or not, is what makes imprinting so amazing.

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Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Coop with Meyer Hatchery – where we talk all things poultry in hopes of inspiring crazy chicken keepers and educating future flock owners. Each week we like to take a Meyer Moment to cover relevant happenings. 

Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about waterfowl imprinting. If you have ever seen adorable ducklings following their mother in a perfect line, or a chick peeking from underneath its mother, you have witnessed the phenomenon of imprinting. Imprinting is the natural process of an animal becoming bonded to its caretaker. Whether this caretaker is its own species or not, is what makes imprinting so amazing. 

Early life is an important time of development for all living things. These delicate moments are precisely when the strong bond of imprinting occurs. This is nature’s way of ensuring that vulnerable hatchlings are protected, cared for, and taught. Imprinting is strongest and most common for goslings and ducklings, but it can also occur in chicks, keets, and poults.

Imprinting has been studied by scientists for nearly a century, with the first theory set forth by Austrian scientist, Konrad Lorenz. The study done by Lorenz was simply two groups of goslings; one group hatched by their own mother and the second group hatched in an incubator. When given the choice, goslings raised by their mother stayed with her but the experiment group goslings naturally waddled straight to Lorenz. This experiment showed that the goslings had a preference for their caretaker even over their own species. 

Science doesn’t have an exact answer of what goes on in the brain of a bird as they imprint, but it is agreed upon that it is purely visual. The hatching bird does not know what they are, so the first moving object seen is identified as their parent. Experiments have shown waterfowl will even imprint on inanimate objects of all sizes and colors. Offered comfort and nourishment, regardless of whether by a human or their biological mother, the bond grows. 

If a gosling or duckling is raised by humans without any other birds to learn from, the solo waterfowl will form the strongest imprinting possible. This bird will be very similar to a small child, requiring constant care and attention from its imprinted caregiver. This imprint can be especially useful for poultry owners when training your waterfowl to come in off the pond or return to their coop.

We hope you enjoyed this Meyer Moment about imprinting and the amazing force of nature a bond can create.

Enjoy the rest of your week and as always, thank you for listening to The Coop!

Hosts & Guests

Kendra + Jeff
From Meyer Hatchery

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