8 facts that will make you look at chickens like you never had before

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Most people unfortunately never have the chance to get to know a chicken. But those who do invariably fall in love with these unique individuals. Here are a few reasons why...

LAST UPDATED: 18 November 2020

Most of those who have been lucky enough to adopt a chicken have a tendency to fall comb-over-claw for them, and if you ever have the good fortune to get to know one yourself, you'll understand why...

They feel empathy.

Researchers have shown that when a hen's chicks become distressed — she does, too! Her heart starts beating faster and she'll increase vocalisations to her little ones.

They dream.
Photo: Two rescued battery hens rest peacefully in the sunshine for the first time. Courtesy: Brightside Farm Sanctuary

Ever dreamt you could fly? It probably would have happened during REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming. Birds experience REM too ... One can only imagine the kind of dreams they must be having!

They're all individuals (just like us).

Some of us like finding a quiet corner to read, others want to be the life of the party — and chickens are the same (minus the book and the DJ). Every hen has her own likes and dislikes, and favourite things to do in her spare time. There are of course, the simple pleasures in life that they all enjoy sharing — like sunshine, fresh air and a warm and comfy place to sleep.

Chickens are behaviourally sophisticated, discriminating among individuals, exhibiting Machiavellian-like social interactions, and learning socially in complex ways that are similar to humans.Lori Marino, Neuroscientist
They're super smart.

A recent study has shown that chickens are intelligent and emotional animals, and are able to "demonstrate thinking skills on par with mammals and primates". If you hide an object from a chicken, they will still know it's there — this is something even young human kids aren't able to do.

As a trick at conferences I sometimes list {their} attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I'm talking about monkeys.Dr Chris Evans, Professor of Psychology, Macquaries University, Australia
They nail the art of nurturing.

You don't get much more motherly than a hen — she's a warm, cuddly bundle of love when it comes to her chicks. While she can't spit on a tissue to wipe the dirt off their cheeks — she will fuss over them like there's no tomorrow, keeping them protected from anything that they're too little to defend themselves against, like predators or the cold. She'll home school them, too — teaching them the ways of chickenhood so they'll be as wise as she is when they grow up.

They've got the gift of the gab.

We hear cluck, begerk and bokbok — but there's a lot more to it than that. Chickens are effectively talking to each other in a language we may never understand. Chickens make distinct sounds that could mean anything from 'OMG guys I found some food' to 'Hey kids, get back here where I can see you'. Cute fact: a mother hen will start communicating with her chicks while they're still in the egg — this way, when they hatch, they'll already recognise her voice.

They're nosey (in a good way).

A chicken's beak isn't just designed to collect food and water, and chat with friends. It's full of sensory receptors and nerves that enable them to distinguish between types of food, and interact with the world around them. This, coupled with their natural curiosity, means chickens LOVE to explore and try new experiences.

They just want to be themselves.

One thing every person lucky enough to know chickens knows to be true — is that these animals just love being themselves. But tragically, millions of these sensitive and intelligent animals are never given the chance to know even the most basic joys, hidden away behind the closed doors of factory farms. Thankfully, you don't have to adopt a chicken (although you probably are thinking about it right now, right?) to be kind to them.

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Seeing chickens a little differently now?

If you think these lovely birds deserve a better life than the experience they're living on factory farms, just remember: You can help free all animals from factory farms!

The simplest way to take a stand against factory farming cruelty is to stop buying or eating factory farmed products. And the great news is that choosing to live compassionately couldn't be easier. Simply by making informed, every-day choices to live kindly, you have the power to make a lifetime of positive difference to animals everywhere.

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