Tag Archives: hen

May 4th is Respect for Chickens Day!

Video

Watch as Lucy the hen chooses the Queen of Hearts card from an ever-growing choice of playing cards. She is even able to distinguish face cards of the queen of hearts from the king of spades!

Although humanity has lived with chickens for hundreds of years we, the so-called “smart ones”, know little of their intelligence. In watching the video one must keep in mind how different a chicken’s eyesight is from humans. Chickens can see by using either both eyes together (like binoculars) or by using each eye to view separate images with no visual information overlap (monocular vision). Their natural world is three-dimensional one, yet notice how quickly Lucy is able to distinguish subtle differences between the many two-dimensional objects even though they have visually flat graphic images. Human beings are also motivated by food (that’s why we trudge off to work at our jobs every day, right?) but I wonder if a two-year old human child could match Lucy’s ability even if multiple lollipops were given as a reward!

Consider these other chicken intelligence facts*:

  • Chickens can recognize up to 96 other individual chickens.
  • Chicks show an ability to add and subtract and can distinguish between large and small groups of objects.
  • Chickens have around 24 unique and complex vocalizations to communicate with others of their kind.
  • It takes eight months for a human baby to understand that objects moved behind a visual barrier are still there, chicks are able to do this at one week old.
  • Hens have shown an ability to sense time by being taught to peck a computer screen after a fixed time period.

Historically humans have degraded other humans and animals as a means of disconnecting from acts of cruelty and justifying oppression. We call chickens “dumb, bird-brained, stupid, feather-brained” and degrade them in images, popular culture and the media. In many cultures throughout history chickens have been honored in art and literature as positive symbols of courage, fertility, new beginnings, good fortune, beauty, and self-confidence.  Today they deserve our respect for the complex and interesting beings that they are!

*Fact source and for more in-depth information: “The Chicken, A Natural History” general editor Dr. Joseph Barber

Video source and credit from Addison Geary’s YouTube channel: Conditioning a chicken to distinguish the Queen of Hearts from other playing cards by employing both classical and operant conditioning. Thanks to Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS for “The Art & Science of Animal Behavior” & “Chicken Tricks: Chicken Pecks Queen of Hearts.” video.

Chick Training YouTube video by Lotti

This little chick can differentiate between three same size red and green and orange color chips even when the placements are changed:

 Seed for Thought: Does our own motivation to see chickens only as food keep us ignorant of  knowing their true potential?

 

Rooster Duties

Image
Roosters are valuable guardians of the flock and will courageously keep predators away. (Photo:©Jazelle)

Roosters are valuable guardians of the flock and will courageously keep predators away.

Chickens enjoy social interaction much like humans. Roosters contribute to an important natural social structure in the flock and perform certain “duties” which they take very seriously. Roosters will keep an instinctual eye out for predators and make a distinctive alarm call when danger is near. Contrary to the stereotype, they are also quite courageous in confronting creatures much larger and stronger than themselves to protect their flock. I have observed roosters escorting hens around the yard, finding food for them and partaking in communal dust baths. I have also noticed that a rooster will “attend” a hen when she goes into the nest to lay an egg. I am not exactly sure what transpires during this quiet interaction between the two, but he will stand attentively alongside the nest until the egg is laid. When the egg arrives he will jubilantly announce the event followed by the entire flock joining in the chorus.

Roosters have a certain call they give to tell the hens that they have found food.

Roosters have a certain call they give to tell hens that they have found food. Often they will stand aside and act as a look-out while the hen eats.

Roosters will keep a hen company while she is on the nest laying her egg. (Photo: "Zak & Zinnia", ©Skyfeather Studio)

Roosters will keep a hen company while she is laying her egg.

-Singing Luna 12/10/2013

Seed for Thought: What valuable rooster behaviors have you observed in your flock?