Chickens do look dumb because all they do is sit around, eat, and then sleep. They do not look like the most intelligent birds in the entire animal kingdom but you might be surprised to know just how smart they really are. In that sense, they aren’t necessarily bird-brained birds. But how smart is a chicken? Are chickens even smarter than dogs or other household animals considered to be smart?
There are no conclusions as to whether chickens are smarter than dogs but it is suggested that they can be. In some studies, chickens outperformed not only dogs but also cats and are even believed to have cognitive abilities that surpass that of a four-year-old human.
At this point, you might be wondering how is it your farm animal compared to your four-legged friend?
Well, like all animals, chickens have learned how to adapt, which makes them smart. Chickens can even learn how to use a dog door!
But it might be best for us to discuss how truly smart they are and how they can possibly be smarter than dogs for us to understand what makes these birds special.
How Smart Is A Chicken?
Many people consider chickens dumb and view them at the bottom of intelligence scale in the animal world.
After all, they wouldn’t be so smart if they are so easy to be used for commercial purposes, would they? That thought is actually entirely right as you have to know that chickens are not as bird-brained as you might think.
The term “bird-brained” is referred to how small a bird’s brain is in comparison to other animals.
There’s usually a direct correlation between the size of a brain and the animal’s intelligence. But, a chicken, is quite intelligent despite their small brain when compared to other common animals.
Chickens Know Their Names
If you have taken care of chickens in the past, you would notice that they are quite intelligent and are actually pretty smart.
In fact, they can be smart enough to know their own names, which is why many people name them. They have the ability to adapt to their environment, and learn about the things and people around them.
That means that they are not merely creatures of habit that rely more on their instincts rather than on their ability to actually think. If they get lost, they have the ability to find their way home.
Compared to Other Birds
It might be true that chickens don’t look like the smartest birds on the planet but they are actually pretty smart. In fact, a lot of other birds are also pretty intelligent.
Crows are good at making primitive tools, parrots are quick to pick up human speech and habits, and pigeons are pretty capable of solving simple problems.
Chickens might just be in the same group as those birds are when it comes to intelligence.
Chickens Are Quite Logical
Dr. Christine Nicol of the University of Bristol actually suggests in a paper that these farm animals have the capabilities to plan ahead, think, apply logic, and draw inferences.
That means that they do not always rely on instinct and just wing it, so to speak. They are capable of using their brains to come up with plans and conclusions based on logic and how they perceive what is happening.
Another experiment, was done around food, palatable and unpalatable food placed in bowls of different colors.
The food bowls were later switched and they were given to chicks. But the hens actually helped warn the chicks which food was palatable and unpalatable.
They were able to assess the situation and show the chicks which food to eat. Which proved how strong their cognitive abilities actually are, and their ability to respond to the information they know.
This means that, unlike other types of animals that merely rely on their senses chickens are able to process information and plan out what they need to do in the future.
That shows how truly smart chickens are
How Smart Is A Dog?
On the flip side, we often view our dogs as the smartest domesticated animals on earth. Dogs are indeed smart but it is best to first assess how smart they really are.
Dogs Are Pretty Intelligent
An average dogs can understand up to 250 words and even have the emotional intelligence to understand human emotions.
Some dogs that are smart enough to learn neat tricks that allow them to participate in shows, sports, and competitions. This is the clever side of a canine, but when it comes to the intelligence level, most people give them too much credit.
A dog’s intelligence level is often related to how they react to rewards and other incentives.
After all, dogs are domesticated animals and appear to be really smart especially when tasked to do activities that are in line with what humans perceive to be intelligent.
They Are Not The Smartest Animals
However, let us not try to overstate how intelligent dogs are.
In hundreds of different studies conducted on animal intelligence, results have usually shown that other animals do better than dogs in different tests.
For instance, chimps and certain birds like crows do better than dogs because they actually know how to use tools. Meanwhile, some birds such as the pigeon are better at recognizing certain patterns in comparison to the dog.
While dogs are indeed smart, but there are several other animals that were more intelligent in certain tests. What makes canine’s the ultimate intelligent domesticated animal is its ability to be partnered with humans.
There are some animals that may stand out in one test but are bad in others. Meanwhile, the dog might not stand out in one test but they do well in almost all of the tests that measure intelligence.
That said, dogs aren’t necessarily the smartest domesticated animals out there but, they are the most well-rounded animals in terms of all-around intelligence.
Are Chickens Smarter Than Dogs?
Normally, we would think that not a lot of farm and domesticated animals are smarter than our dogs. But that isn’t true. Studies have prove that even pigs and cows have can potentially be smarter than dogs.
And yes, there are studies that show that chickens can actually be smarter than dogs.
It was actually shown in multiple tests of cognitive abilities that chickens have the ability to outperform dogs. But that’s not all. Chickens are also potentially smarter than cats or even regular four-year-old humans based on how they performed in those tests.
What that simply shows is that chickens do indeed have capable cognitive abilities and can indeed be smarter than dogs and other household and farm animals.
But that isn’t a general conclusion we can come up with because of how they’re still is no clear consensus on how smart chickens really are. However, we shouldn’t be surprised if we are later given more evidence that suggests that chickens are indeed smarter than our dogs.
Probably the only reason why it is difficult to believe that chickens are more intelligent than our canine pals is that dogs are much more capable physically and more likely to show empathy and care towards us rather than our flightless bird friends. Still, that doesn’t mean that chickens lack the emotional intelligence that dogs have.
Are Chickens Emotionally Intelligent?
When we talk about emotional intelligence or empathy in animals, we are talking about how a certain animal is able to connect and share the feelings of other animals.
In this sense, we are talking about the emotional intelligence of a chicken.
Truth be told, not a lot of people believe that chickens can be emotionally intelligent. After all, they look quite dumb and don’t show a lot of emotions. But you might be surprised to know that they actually have a sense of empathy that can be rare.
Chickens can not only show empathy, but they can also experience feelings of jealousy, and pain.
In one of the studies mentioned in this article, we discussed how the chickens warned their chicks which food was palatable. This shows that they were emotionally intelligent enough to actually care about their chicks and what they eat.
Another experiment suggested that chickens actually showed enough empathy towards their fellow chickens.
It was shown in the experiment that chickens showed alertness not only towards themselves but also to their chicks and to other chickens as well when they were exposed to a puff of air that was mildly distressing.
In other words, chickens do indeed have the capacity to be emotionally intelligent.
However, because they are not as exposed to human interaction as much as dogs and other pets, chickens don’t always show the same kind of empathy towards us.
Still, they are animals with a sense of empathy we should be aware of, just like we are with our other domesticated pets.
References and Further Reading
East Bay Times – Study: Chickens Might be as Smart as Dolphins
Mentalfloss – Kate Horowitz – Chickens Are Much, Much Smarter Than They Look