Chickens are one of the most common farm animals around the world. Continue reading for facts about chickens that will ‘beak’ your interest, and show how fascinating and interesting these animals are!
- Today’s modern chickens were domesticated around 8000 years ago. They evolved from the red jungle fowl, who lived in the jungle. Another fun fact about chicken ancestry is that chickens are living descendants of the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex!
- Like humans, chickens have full colour vision, and are able to perceive red, green and blue light. However, what makes chicken’s vision unique from ours is that they are also able to see violet and ultraviolet light.
- Chickens are very intelligent animals! Studies have shown that chickens are self-aware and can distinguish themselves from others. They learn from one another, such as a chick learning from her mother which foods are good to eat. They are also able to recognize the social status of other chickens in their social group.
- The Ayam Cemani is a rare breed of chicken from Indonesia. What makes it incredibly unique is that it is completely black, both inside and out. Its feathers, beak, eyes, comb (flesh on top of its head) and wattle (the fleshy bit dangling under its beak) are all black. It even has black bones and organs!
- Chickens have over 30 unique vocalizations that they use to communicate a wide variety of messages to other chickens, including mating calls, stress signals, warnings of danger, how they are feeling and food discovery.
- Chickens perch in high places to watch for predators and alert their flock mates of any dangers they see. Their feet are specially designed for perching, with three forward facing toes and one toe pointing backward, allowing them to grip onto branches and other perching objects. At night, chickens perch up high to sleep, which is called roosting.
- Chickens live in groups called flocks. The social structure of these flocks depends on a hierarchy called a pecking order, which is an order of dominance. All chickens know their place in this order, and it helps to maintain a stable, cohesive group.
- Chickens are able to recognize over 100 different individuals even after being separated for extended periods of time, highlighting their long-term memory capabilities.
- Chickens clean themselves by dust bathing. An oil gland on their back is used to spread oil over their feathers to make them waterproof. But over time, the oil goes stale, and chickens need to wash the old oil off through dust bathing. Chickens like to dust bathe together daily to keep their feathers waterproofed, conditioned and in neat order. It also helps repel parasites and keep their skin healthy.
In the following video, Dr. Ian Duncan, a world-renowned poultry behaviour and welfare expert, discusses perching, dust bathing behaviours and pecking orders.
- Chickens will only lay eggs after receiving a light cue, either from a natural or artificial source of light. When light is received by a gland near the chicken’s eye, it triggers the release of an egg cell from the chicken’s ovary. That is why most eggs are laid in the morning hours.
- Ever wondered what causes the difference between brown and white eggs? It depends on the breed of the hen, but it’s not the feather colour that tells you what colour the egg shell will be. It’s the colour of the chicken’s earlobes! Generally, chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs, and chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs (with a few exceptions of course). Although the colour of the eggs may differ, the nutritional content or flavour does not.
- How to tell if your egg is fresh? Fresh eggs will sink in water, whereas eggs no longer fresh to eat will float.
- Hens really do like to lay their eggs in a nest. A hen will start to look for a nest about 60-90 minutes before she is ready to lay her egg. If a nest is unavailable, she may become stressed and decide to hold her egg inside her body a little longer. You can tell if an egg was laid by a stressed hen by looking closely at it.
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