Chickens are smarter than you think!

Poultry sector in India is valued at about Rs. 80,000 crore (2015-16) and the plan is to double it by 2022. Worldwide the opportunities commercial poultry farming offers is just growing. To enhance the success of yield and health of the birds, many researchers are burning the midnight oil and this led to some amazing discoveries. Here are few of the points that might interest you.

  1. According to a study conducted by D’Eath and Keeling, from the Dept. of Anim. Environ. and Health, Swed. Univ. of Agricultural Sciences, Skara, Sweden, chicks can distinguish anywhere between 30-100 faces of their own species.

2. Chickens have full-colour vision — no colour-blindness here! According to Dr. Joseph C. Corbo of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Chickens can see colours better than humans. The study found out that the retinas in chicken were more receptive than many mammals.

3. Chickens are real sleeping beauties—they are believed to have rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which means they might dream just like we do. Michel Jouvet, Professor of Experimental Medicine at the University of Lyon, conducted extensive research on sleep and dreaming. In his book The Paradox of Sleep: The Story of Dreaming, he says chicken experience REM sleep and dream up to 25 mins every night – the same duration as cows. In comparison, humans can dream up to 100 mins.

4. Chickens are attracted to beautiful people just like us. They have a way to pick out beautiful faces based on symmetry and it is quite similar to how humans perceive beauty.

5. Chickens can sleep with one eye open (monocular sleep). Though it might be a way of watching out for predators, it is still an interesting way to catch a shut-eye. Scientists were able to alter which eye would be open by light exposure of the chick embryo.

6. Newly hatched chicks can be trained to remember colors, shapes and patterns. Chicks were able to build an integrated representation of different objects. For example, they reliably distinguished an object defined by a purple circle and yellow triangle from an object defined by a purple triangle and yellow circle. This result shows that newborns can begin binding color and shape features into integrated representations at the onset of their experience with visual objects.

7. You might have more in common with the chicken on your plate than you realize. Chickens exhibited a choice of music when given an option and chose melodies they were accustomed to when they were inside the eggshell. Researchers Chiandetti and Vallortigara at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy, found that you can train chicks to pick up certain music preferences in the eggshell.

While chicks can be raised almost independently from their mother, they were observed to have a strong bond when raised together. The influences were not just related to dependency but also the choice of food selection, types of calls, response to stress and so on. Now that we know chickens are not just birds that are good for making nuggets or wings, don’t you think ‘chicken brain’ should not a slang anymore?

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