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How Smart Are Chickens?


 



wise_chickenWhen 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 companions.

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.


Dating?

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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