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Are Chickens Intelligent?

Chickens tend to get a poor rap. Most people believe these birds to be rather dim but research has suggested that chickens could be much more intelligent than previously thought and are even capable of skilful subterfuge.

Superior Thinking

A review of scientific research conducted in the US has been published in the journal Animal Cognition. This has concluded that chicken intelligence has been severely underestimated. The birds are actually capable of advanced thinking similar to that of mammals and primates. Their logical thinking is superior to that of young children and the birds have individual personalities.

Devious Behaviour

The birds were found to be incredible devious. Males make food calls when there is actually no food present in order to attract females to their area. They cluck more quietly during mating rituals if rivals are present so that they wouldn’t alert them to the presence of a potential mate.

Doing the Maths

Chickens can also count and even newly hatched chicks are able to tell the difference between quantities of items and to do simple arithmetic. Chickens can also discriminate between crude diagrams.

Surprising Complex

Unfortunately, chickens are generally viewed by people as a commodity. But there is clearly more to chickens than previously thought. They possess the capacity to reason and can make inferences from what they see and experience. This is an ability which humans only develop at around the age of seven. Chickens can perceive time and may even be able to anticipate future events. They can discriminate between different individuals, they interact socially and they learn in complex ways.

Self-Control and Communication

The birds were also found to possess self-control when it comes to holding out for a better food and are able to understand their position in the pecking order. This demonstrates impressive self-awareness. Communication between chickens is also surprising complex. Chickens have a large repertoire of visual displays and it is known that they can produce at least 24 distinct vocalisations. They use these to attract mates and to signal danger. Mother hens show a wide range of maternal traits and these seem to affect the behaviour of their offspring.

It is now thought that chickens experience emotion. They feel fear, anxiety and anticipation just like people do. Perhaps it is time that we gained a new appreciation for poultry!

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