Many birds show clear signs of intelligence, but the phrase “bird brained” is still often used to describe dumb behavior. Chicken are often viewed as one of the least intelligent bird species, but this impression may not be accurate. Research on bird behavior suggests that chickens can actually be surprisingly smart. These birds have very high cognitive skills, and a new study has found that chickens can even be capable of mathematics.
Poultry Scientist Shows That Chickens Can Do Math
In a study recently published in the journal Animal Cognition, Lori Marino examines the cognitive levels of chickens. She calls attention to past research that has looked at the cognition, emotions, sociality, and intelligence of chickens. Marino’s article explains that chickens possess the ability to count their newly hatched chicks, but they can also do much more.
Even by the age of five days old, chickens can do simple arithmetic like basic addition and subtraction. If a ball is tossed to a hiding spot, chickens can remember where it is for at least three minutes, just like most monkeys. Chicken’s high level of cognition shows that they can plan ahead, think about future events, and solve relevant problems. The birds have a complicated pecking order that allows one chicken to gain precedence over others, and chickens are able to remember exactly where each bird in their flock is on the pecking order.
Chickens express individual emotions, and they empathize with other chickens who are experiencing strong emotions. To communicate with each other, chickens have at least 24 distinct vocal noises. Marino compares all of these findings to the intelligence levels of other similar animals. Instead of being remarkably dumb, chickens are actually one of the smarter bird species, and they operate on a cognitive level similar to many other vertebrates.
Renewed Interest in Chicken Intelligence May Change Poultry Farming Practices
Marino’s study may be influential in a few different ways. It is a valuable addition to animal intelligence research because it shows that chickens can be just as capable of intelligence as parrots or ravens. The intelligence of chickens may be a reason for better treatment of chickens. This study comes at a time when more and more consumers are beginning to demand ethical behavior from chicken and egg companies.
This new work could end up being a basis for encouraging companies to stop harmful practices. such as confining chickens in cages that have just 38 square inches of floor space for their entire lifespan. Though extremely small spaces were banned by the EU in 2012, they are currently still allowed in the United States. Poultry welfare scientists have heavily criticized these tiny cages as cruel, because chickens suffer mentally and physically from the rigid confinement.
Proponents of factory farmed chickens have claimed that it is acceptable to mistreat chickens because the birds are too dull to recognize the mistreatment, but Marino’s study shows that is clearly untrue. If her study inspires more research on chicken intelligence, cruel poultry farming methods could eventually become a thing of the past.
Marino Concludes That Chickens Are As Smart as Seven Year Old Humans
Marino’s extensive review on chicken research found that chickens seem to display the intelligence and thinking skills of the average seven year old child. The birds have individual personalities, can recognize different noises, are capable of counting, have a complicated social order, and can remember where hidden objects are located. All of this points to a need for better chicken treatment, as well as further research on the intelligence of these birds.
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