Thursday, July 24, 2008

Interesting Article

I found this fascinating article about the intelligence and social nature of chickens on I didn't write this but am including it on my blog for others to enjoy. The Hidden Lives of Chickens In This Feature: Social Smarts, Small Birds, Big Personalities People who have spent time with chickens know that they have complex social structures, adept communication skills, and distinct personalities, just as we do. Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Dr. Bernard Rollins notes, “[C]ontrary to what one may hear from the industry, chickens are … complex behaviorally, do quite well in learning, show a rich social organization, and have a diverse repertoire of calls. Anyone who has kept barnyard chickens recognizes their significant differences in personality.” 15 Like people, chickens each have a place or rank within their group—some birds are dominant, and others are expected to be more submissive because they are on a lower social rung. Chickens know their places within the hierarchy, and they act accordingly—for instance, when learning how to perform a new task, they often follow the lead of the dominant members in their group.16 Mench explains, “Chickens show sophisticated social behavior. … That’s what a pecking order is all about.”17 Chickens also remember the faces of those in their social group; Mench continues, “They can recognize more than a hundred other chickens and remember them.”18 Scientists agree that chickens’ complex social structures and good memories are undeniable signs of advanced intelligence comparable to that of mammals. Talkin’ Chicken Chickens communicate with each other through their “clucks”—Mench explains, “They have more than thirty types of vocalizations.”19 They have different calls to distinguish between threats that are approaching by land and those that are approaching over water, and a mother hen begins to teach these calls to her chicks before they even hatch—she clucks softly to them while sitting on the eggs, and they chirp back to her and to each other from inside their shells.20,21 Like all animals, chickens love their families and value their own lives. The social nature of chickens means that they are always looking out for their families and for other chickens in their group. In the wild, chickens spend most of their time in groups—they enjoy foraging for food, taking dustbaths, and roosting in trees together at night. After he toured United Poultry Concerns in 1998, Ira Glass, the host of National Public Radio’s This American Life, was so impressed with the personalities of the chickens he met that he hasn’t eaten chicken or any other animal flesh since. Mother hens care deeply for their babies—Jesus even refers to the loving protectiveness of a hen toward her chicks in the Gospels, which were written almost 2,000 years ago.22 Indeed, a mother hen will turn her eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck soothingly to her unborn chicks.23 Hens prefer to have private nests for their eggs in protected areas far away from predators. According to The Humane Society of the United States, “The desire [for a private nest] is so strong, in fact, that a hen will often go without food and water, if necessary, to use a nest.”24 This demonstrates the fact that hens will sacrifice their own comfort if it means protecting their chicks. Besides bonding to their young, chickens also form strong friendships and enjoy spending time with their companions, just like we do. Kim Sturla, the manager of Animal Place, a sanctuary for farmed animals near Sacramento, recounts a touching story of two chickens. “We rescued an elderly hen, Mary, from a city dump and later an elderly rooster, Notorious Boy. They bonded, and they would roost on the picnic table. One stormy night with the rain really pelting down, I went to put them in the barn and I saw the rooster had his wing extended over the hen, protecting her.”25


At July 28, 2008 at 7:37 PM , Anonymous Corinne said...

Wow, thats very cool! I had no idea chickens were like that! This really backs up my feelings against factory farming...


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