How Smart Are Chickens?
When one thinks of a chicken, the last thing a person imagines is a bird
capable of doing math, having patience, or being able to compete with a human in terms of taking their
woman out for a date, but scientists have conducted experiments which have shown just this.
The Test of Patience
Can you believe that an animal that seems to be so simple and easy intrigued
by food can have self-control? The scientists from the Biophysics Group at the Silsoe Research Institute in
England didn't either and decided to experiment with chickens to find out if they could anticipate future
events and demonstrate self control. They presented chickens with a button that, when pecked, would deliver a
few kernels of food. However, if the chickens waited longer than 22 seconds, they would be delivered a jackpot
of food. Because of this, scientists were able to rule out the idea that chickens are only interested in the
now. They obviously can wait for later, it just appears there has to be some sort of reward. Though the thought
that chickens could wait and show self-control was not necessarily a surprise as self-control is necessary in
the wild, the ease with which is was proven was a shock.
Baby Vs. Baby
Are baby chicks smarter than baby humans? One group of scientists seem to think so. They have found that
while a human baby can only work with numbers up to three, baby chicks can work with five and possibly more.
Rosa Rugani, a researcher from the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences at the University of Trento in Italy, and her
colleagues tested the arithmetic skills of 17 White Leghorn chicks. The raised the chicks from hatching with
small yellow balls that the chicks identified as being their siblings. They would even try to communicate with
the balls if they were removed from the brooding box and talking soothingly with the ball when it was returned.
The chicks were then placed in a darkened theatre type setting with two opaque screens and the balls dangled
behind the screens. Though animals naturally gravitate towards greater numbers, especially when young, the
chicks picked the larger number every time, sticking their heads behind the screens to see their rounder
It is believed that the chicks out-tested human babies because human children do not have the need to handle
such large numbers. Most have two parents and possibly a sibling to count and do not need to handle such large
numbers as baby chicks who may hatch from broods with as many as 10 siblings.
Ever thought you’d be competing with more than just the other roosters out there crowing for their ladies?
Turns out, in some ways you are. Chickens have been discovered to be both social and intelligent that adjust
what they are saying depending on who is listening according to Dr. K-lynn Smith and Professor Chris Evans from
Macquarie University. According to the Professor, because they live in an environment that forces them to
compete for everything, they have become quite cunning and will use sounds and gestures to convey information
about their environment. For example, a male rooster who has found food, will break out in his best moves and
calls so that everyone knows he has food and the nearest hen will come to check him out. The idea is very
similar to the human thought of a dinner date; take me out and maybe we’ll mate.
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