An eclec­tic al­pha­bet of chicken facts with a dif­fer­ence. Com­piler: Andy Cawthray

Your Chickens - - Contents -

Chicken senses


A chicken’s eyes are po­si­tioned on the side of the head, which means it has good, al­most all-round, sight, mak­ing it very ef­fi­cient at spot­ting po­ten­tial preda­tors. Its vi­sion is not com­pletely al­laround, how­ever, as there is a blind spot to­ward the back of the head, but, if you con­sider full spher­i­cal vi­sion is 360 de­grees, then a chicken can see for­wards with both eyes (binoc­u­lar vi­sion) for ap­prox­i­mately 26 de­grees, and the left and right eyes can op­er­ate in a monoc­u­lar fash­ion to ac­count for a fur­ther 300 de­grees leav­ing only 34 de­grees of blind spot and pro­vid­ing a to­tal field of vi­sion of 326 de­grees; this is pretty good when com­pared to the hu­man at 180 de­grees, and it makes it pretty dif­fi­cult for you if you are try­ing to catch them un­awares. In fact eye­sight is so im­por­tant to chick­ens that the eyes to­gether weigh al­most as much as the brain


Chick­ens have the ca­pac­ity to re­mem­ber. This is not just a case of spa­tial mem­ory, or re­mem­ber­ing where the best for­ag­ing spots are, but is also the abil­ity to recog­nise other in­di­vid­u­als within a flock. Chick­ens have been shown to be able to rec­og­nize up to at least 96 other in­di­vid­u­als within a flock.


Chick­ens have a hear­ing range slightly nar­rower than that of hu­mans. It falls within 15Hz10,000Hz, with their most sen­si­tive range be­ing be­tween 1,000-4,000Hz. Their main vo­cal­iza­tions, of which there are around twenty, tend to fall in this spec­trum, and run from around 500-6,000Hz. Slight dif­fer­ences in pitch, tone, and rhythm en­able recog­ni­tion of in­di­vid­u­als (or im­posters), even if the bird call­ing can­not be seen. Chicks will learn this at a very early age, en­sur­ing they al­ways re­spond to the right mother’s call.


A chicken’s sense of smell is not par­tic­u­larly well de­vel­oped. How­ever, they are ca­pa­ble of re­spond­ing to cer­tain scents. Their ol­fac­tory re­cep­tors are

found in the up­per jaw just be­neath the nos­trils.


A chicken’s sense of touch pri­mar­ily re­lies upon the beak and the pads of the feet, both of which are es­sen­tial in find­ing and con­sum­ing food. The re­cep­tors work by re­spond­ing to pres­sure changes, and are very sen­si­tive. Chick­ens are also able to de­tect vi­bra­tions us­ing re­cep­tors in their feet, legs and skin. This sense en­ables them to be able to de­tect move­ment when light is poor or vi­sion is ob­structed. When such move­ment is iden­ti­fied the bird will be­come alert and may emit a warn­ing call.


The skin also pro­vides for a level of sensitivity for the chicken. Warm and cold tem­per­a­tures are mon­i­tored via re­cep­tors within the skin en­abling the bird to re­spond ac­cord­ing. Spe­cial­ized nerve end­ings in the skin of the chicken known as no­ci­cep­tors sense pain and un­pleas­ant stim­u­la­tion which all serve to pro­tect the bird through pro­vok­ing a re­ac­tion in much the same as a hu­man would re­coil from a flame or ex­ces­sively hot wa­ter.


This term is of­ten used to im­ply an in­fe­rior in­tel­li­gence, and the age old joke ques­tion­ing the mo­tives the chicken cross­ing the road also seems to add to the per­cep­tion that they have lit­tle in­tel­li­gence. Granted, there are some in­di­vid­u­als and breeds whose be­hav­iour may seem lack­ing in com­mon sense. How­ever, many of the cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties of chick­ens are in fact com­pa­ra­ble with pri­mates. This is re­flected in the fact that the brain of a chicken is around 9 times big­ger than the brain of a rep­tile of a sim­i­lar size.

Given the lev­els of do­mes­tic hus­bandry chick­ens have un­der­gone, cou­pled with their abil­ity to evolve new sur­vival strate­gies to cope with the chang­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pres­sures im­posed on them through do­mes­tic­ity, they are not an un­in­tel­li­gent species.


This is the sci­en­tific term used to ex­plain the phys­i­cal dif­fer­ences in the ap­pear­ance of male and fe­male chick­ens of the same breed. It is the way keep­ers can tell the sexes apart. It is also a vis­ual sense used to a de­gree by chick­ens, and, con­se­quently, a par­tic­u­larly henny-feath­ered male within a mixed sex flock may in­ad­ver­tently find him­self the fo­cus of an­other male bird’s amorous in­ten­sions.

Good all round vi­sion

The amaz­ing nasal con­struct of an Owl­bird

Lis­ten­ing ....

TOP: Re­cep­tors in the skin will warn of the cold ABOVE RIGHT: The beak is es­sen­tial for the sense of touch LEFT: Not so bird brained af­ter all...

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