Chickens are the world’s third most popular animals, next only to dogs and cats. Aside from being the top source of meat, they are often kept as a source of eggs or even as pets for some households. Because of these, they are also some of the most studied animals in the world.
How much do you know about chicken? Check out the following crazy facts about chickens:
There are more chickens on Earth than people
While there are almost 8 billion people on the planet, there are already 25 billion chickens worldwide. If you think about it, chickens outnumber people by 3:1, and those numbers are getting bigger yearly.
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Chickens are actually omnivores
Although chickens are often fed with seeds like corn, their diets are much more varied. When presented with the opportunity, they will eat insects, worms, lizards, toads, and even small mice. In large poultry farms though, they are only fed commercial feeds to make sure that quality is consistent.
Chickens are related to dinosaurs
According to fossil records and even genetic testing results, birds evolved from the dinosaur lineage. In 2004, the chicken was the first bird to have its genome sequenced. Results prove that chickens are the closest living relative of the great T. Rex.
Chickens have good memories
They may not be able to do tricks like dogs, but chickens make up for it by being good at remembering stuff. In fact, according to chicken farmers, they can recognize faces, other animals, places, placement of things, and even other chickens.
Chickens do not sweat
They don’t have any sweat glands, so sweating is impossible. Their combs and wattles often do an excellent job keeping their bodies at optimal temperatures.
On hot days, they pump warm blood through their combs and wattles to cool them down. If that’s not enough, they drink water or flap their wings to get rid of excess heat from their body. They also pant to release more heat.
Chickens do not take water baths
To clean themselves up, chickens take dust baths instead. They get down on the ground, roll, and scoop up dust with their features in a flapping motion. This exfoliates old and dead skin, removes old and loose feathers, and smothers insects and other parasites that might be hiding in their feathers.
Courtesy of Magda Ehlers
Chickens have great eyesight
People initially thought that chickens were colorblind. However, recent studies show that chickens and birds generally have excellent eyesight. They have more color receptors than humans do, so they actually perceive more colors than us. T
heir eyes are also on the sides of their heads, giving them a wider field of vision. If that’s not enough, they can also move their eyes independently of each other.
Chickens make plenty of sounds
Cooing or crowing is not the only sound that chickens make. Surprisingly enough, they make plenty of sounds, and they all have distinct meanings or purposes.
Scientists have already observed 30 different vocalizations from chickens. These include alert calls when predators are nearby, calls for their young, loud purring in contentment, and even soft purring when communicating with their chicks.
Chickens are good flyers
Chickens are not the flightless birds that some people think. Even though they don’t fly often, chickens can fly really well. It’s not surprising for them to do short bursts of flight, especially when being chased.
However, according to records, the longest recorded flight by a chicken is 301 feet, and it lasted for 13 seconds. It’s certainly not a migratory distance, but it is considerably long enough (for a flightless bird).
Chickens were not originally domesticated for meat
Researchers believe that most of the chickens in the world were descended from the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) from Southeast Asia. These chickens were originally kept and bred for cockfighting, a type of sport and entertainment that was popular back then.
A chicken’s comb and wattle condition are indicative of its health
Ideally, a chicken’s comb and wattle should be vibrant red. If they are pale, the chicken shows signs of anemia or possibly a parasitic infection. Bluish coloration might indicate poor circulation, while a white comb could mean frostbite.
Even hens choose their mates based on comb and wattle conditions. That’s why roosters with big vibrant combs often get the most mates.
Chickens teach their young
Young chicks are taught by their mothers and other older chickens what to eat, what to avoid, and other things necessary for survival. Many of their behaviors are learned from other chickens and are not instinctive.
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Chicken eggs need the right temperature to develop
Chicken eggs are about 40 degrees Celsius when pushed out by the hen. However, they require a slightly colder temperature to develop outside the body. In farms and large commercial poultries, the eggs are incubated at 31 degrees to hatch.
Want to keep chickens at home with your kids? Here’s a quick video to find out: Backyard Chickens by NBC Connecticut
Frequently Asked Questions about Chicken
Are chickens colorblind?
No, they are not. Chickens have better eyesight than humans because they have extra color receptors. Humans have three types of color receptors in the eyes (blue, green, and red), while chickens have four (red, blue, green, and ultraviolet).
Like most birds, chickens can see colors that humans cannot perceive. However, they do not have night vision. They are essentially blind in the dark.
Do chickens dream?
Like dogs and cats, chickens also dream. Researchers have discovered that chickens experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Whenever they do, they exhibit muscle twitching and even produce sounds.
Can chickens hear well?
Yes, they can. Even in the absence of external flaps, chickens hear sounds pretty well. A special tuft of feathers covers the openings on both sides of the head, but they receive sounds without any problems.
Are chickens smart?
Different studies on chickens show that these animals are actually smarter than we give them credit for.
Aside from having really good memories, experiments show that they are capable of problem-solving to a certain degree, recall and learn from past events, and empathize with others. Some studies show that they possess cognitive skills on par with mammals and primates.