8 facts that will make you look at chickens like you never had before.

Most people unfortunately never have the chance to get to know a chicken.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated February 1, 2022

Most of those who have been lucky enough to adopt a chicken have a tendency to fall comb-over-claw for them, and if you ever have the good fortune to get to know one yourself, you’ll understand why…

1. They feel empathy

Researchers have shown that when a hen’s chicks become distressed — she does, too! Her heart starts beating faster and she’ll increase vocalisations to her little ones.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Cute little chicken chicks sitting comfortably under the wings of their mother chicken

2. They Dream

Ever dreamt you could fly? It probably would have happened during REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming. Birds experience REM too … One can only imagine the kind of dreams they must be having!

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Two chickens sleeping in the day light, perhaps day dreaming

3. They’re all individuals (just like us)

Some of us like finding a quiet corner to read, others want to be the life of the party — and chickens are the same (minus the book and the DJ). Every hen has her own likes and dislikes, and favourite things to do in her spare time. There are of course, the simple pleasures in life that they all enjoy sharing — like sunshine, fresh air and a warm and comfy place to sleep.

Chickens are behaviourally sophisticated, discriminating among individuals, exhibiting Machiavellian-like social interactions, and learning socially in complex ways that are similar to humans.
Lori Marino

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Four cute little chicken chicks standing in the row

4. They’re super smart

A recent study has shown that chickens are intelligent and emotional animals, and are able to “demonstrate thinking skills on par with mammals and primates“. If you hide an object from a chicken, they will still know it’s there — this is something even young human kids aren’t able to do.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A chicken looking at herself in the mirror
As a trick at conferences I sometimes list their attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I'm talking about monkeys.
Dr Chris Evans
Professor of Psychology
Macquaries University, Australia

5. They nail the art of nurturing

You don’t get much more motherly than a hen — she’s a warm, cuddly bundle of love when it comes to her chicks. While she can’t spit on a tissue to wipe the dirt off their cheeks — she will fuss over them like there’s no tomorrow, keeping them protected from anything that they’re too little to defend themselves against, like predators or the cold. She’ll home school them, too — teaching them the ways of chickenhood so they’ll be as wise as she is when they grow up.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

They nail the art of nurturing

6. They’ve got the gift of the gab

We hear cluck, begerk and bokbok — but there’s a lot more to it than that. Chickens are effectively talking to each other in a language we may never understand. Chickens make distinct sounds that could mean anything from ‘OMG guys I found some food’ to ‘Hey kids, get back here where I can see you’.

Cute fact:

A mother hen will start communicating with her chicks while they’re still in the egg — this way, when they hatch, they’ll already recognise her voice.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A chicken singing with his open mouth

7. They’re nosey (in a good way)

A chicken’s beak isn’t just designed to collect food and water, and chat with friends. It’s full of sensory receptors and nerves that enable them to distinguish between types of food, and interact with the world around them. This, coupled with their natural curiosity, means chickens LOVE to explore and try new experiences.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A chicken curiously looking towards camera

8. They just want to be themselves

One thing every person lucky enough to know chickens knows to be true — is that these animals just love being themselves. But tragically, millions of these sensitive and intelligent animals are never given the chance to know even the most basic joys, hidden away behind the closed doors of factory farms. Thankfully, you don’t have to adopt a chicken (although you probably are thinking about it right now, right?) to be kind to them.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A chick sitting comfortably under the wings of his mother chicken

Seeing chickens a little differently now?

If you think these lovely birds deserve a better life than the experience they’re living on factory farms, just remember: You can help free all animals from factory farms!

The simplest way to take a stand against factory farming cruelty is to stop buying or eating factory farmed products. And the great news is that choosing to live compassionately couldn’t be easier. There is an abundance of chicken-free alternatives on the market and so many great recipes to keep our hen friends happy. Simply by making informed, every-day choices to live kindly, you have the power to make a lifetime of positive difference to animals everywhere.