Are Chickens Intelligent?

There is a lot of debate surrounding the intelligence of chickens. Some people believe they are dumb, while others think they are intelligent creatures. This article dives into the research that has been conducted on chicken intelligence and provides some fascinating insights.

Yes, chickens are intelligent creatures. They can recognize dozens of different humans, remember where an object is hidden, showcase individual personalities, and even do basic math. 

Chickens have demonstrated their intelligence in many areas, and they are not the birdbrain creatures many people think they are.

How Do Chickens Show Their Intelligence?

Chickens have shown they are intelligent through various studies, described further below. Within their groups, however, they also show their intelligence every day. 

Chickens communicate extensively, with dozens of vocalizations that each mean a different thing. Below are some different ways hens display their intelligence.

Mother hens communicate with their chicks while they are still in the egg, getting their offspring used to the sound of their voice before hatching. The chicks in the egg even respond to the mother hen and communicate with chicks in other eggs.

Mother hens have also responded empathetically to their offspring. If the chickens get worried or anxious, she begins to feel similarly through an accelerated heart rate and heightened alertness. 

This has even happened with some hens and the chicks of others.

Within flocks, chickens also respect a pecking order in their group. They are aware of their strength, or lack thereof, and follow a social hierarchy.

Do Chickens Have a Good Memory?

Many studies have been done on chickens and their memory to prove that they are intelligent creatures. Some of these studies have tested their delayed gratification, which is mostly seen in humans. 

Delayed gratification is when you can wait or work for a later reward. One example of delayed gratification is starting an exercise plan with the expectancy that you’ll reach your goal weight in two months.

Certain studies have shown that chickens will refuse a small amount of food now if they learn if means they will get more food later. This means they are not only acting in the moment but thinking ahead to the future.

In their pecking order, chickens recognize other flock members and act accordingly, but it doesn’t stop there. Chickens can also learn the faces of humans they interact with often.

On top of that, they also tend to prefer more beautiful faces, such as those with more symmetry, just like humans do!

Do Chickens Have Personalities?

Just like cats and dogs, chickens have shown that they have distinct personalities. They form bonds between each other that vary within the flock. Each chicken also responds differently to people. 

Some chickens are kinder to humans, whereas others may show more aggression.

Since different personalities will do different activities, chickens also learn from one another. They imitate those in the flock who are more successful, similar to humans in business. This knowledge is then passed down to later generations.

Researchers fed a mixture of blue and yellow corn kernels to chickens in one study, but the blue seeds made the chickens feel sick. After a while, the chickens learned to avoid the blue kernels. Then, when those chickens had chicks, they steered the newborn chicks away from the blue kernels, even when the blue seeds were now harmless and chemical-free.

Can Chickens Do Math?

Yes, chickens can even do simple math. Researchers from the Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences in Italy conducted a study in 2014 of chickens and their mathematical abilities. 

The study placed a chick in a box where one wall of the box was glass showing two screens on the other side. Both screens were opaque, which meant the chick couldn’t see behind them.

The researchers put two objects behind one screen and three behind the other while the chick watched. They then moved one of the objects from the 3-object group to the 2-object group. Then the chick was set free to explore behind their choice of screen. 

After repeating the experiment with 19 different chicks, the majority was clear – chicks favorited the screen that had more objects hidden behind it.

To ensure the chick was choosing based on the number, they tried the same experiment with four objects and one object, later moving one from the 4-object group (subtracting) to the 1-object group. The chicks still went to the screen that had more things behind it.

This same experiment was repeated with objects of different surface areas. Yet again, the chicks chose the screen with more objects behind it.

At the end of the day, we know that chickens can count up to five. So while it’s unlikely that they’ll be doing algebra anytime soon, this still makes them smarter than a whole host of other animals.

Are Chickens Smarter Than Pets?

Dogs have shown a canny ability to perform various tricks. Cats, not as much, but we do know they are cunning. So are chickens smarter than the average household pet? It depends on how you measure intelligence.

Chickens can recognize humans and have personalities like dogs and cats. 

They learn from each other and form bonds like these pets too. But, chickens also have something meaningful – object permanence.

Object permanence is knowing that an object exists even if it’s hidden from us. A baby, for example, doesn’t have object permanence. This is why peek-a-boo is so surprising to them – they think we have disappeared, only to reappear magically again.

Chickens can outsmart babies in this regard, as they know where to look for a hidden object. These thinking skills are often saved for humans and primates. Dogs also have object permanence, but cats have a very low level of it. So, technically, a chicken may be smarter than your cat.

Can Chickens Think?

While it may be different than how humans think, chickens do have some sort of thought process during their lives. Chickens perceive time and anticipate the future, as demonstrated through delayed gratification. 

Unlike many other animals, they also experience REM sleep, which strongly supports that they dream while sleeping.

Unfortunately, science hasn’t advanced enough to let us know what these chickens may be dreaming of, but we would like to imagine it’s of green pastures and their favorite chicken friends.

Final Word

Several studies have concluded that chickens are intelligent. The level of intelligence will vary depending on the breed, personality, and individual bird.

Hopefully, this article has shown you how remarkable these creatures are and that they should be respected as any other animal. 

Chickens aren’t as dumb as we thought – they’re pretty smart!

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