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Who You Calling Bird-Brained? Chickens Smarter, More Self-Aware than Previously Thought

Jan 04, 2017 11:40 AM EST
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Chickens
Chickens have the ability to present distinct personalities, outmaneuver one another, determine specific order of things and reason by deduction.
(Photo : Sarah Kerver/Getty Images for CMT)

A new review of the latest published research about the psychology, behavior and emotions of chicken revealed that the world's most abundant domesticated animal is as clueless or bird-brained as people previously believed them to be.

The review, published in the journal Animal Cognition, showed that chickens have the ability to present distinct personalities, outmaneuver one another, determine specific order of things and reason by deduction.

"They are perceived as lacking most of the psychological characteristics we recognize in other intelligent animals and are typically thought of as possessing a low level of intelligence compared with other animals," said Lori Marino, senior scientist for The Someone Project, a joint venture of Farm Sanctuary and the Kimmela Center in the USA and lead author of the review, in a press release. "The very idea of chicken psychology is strange to most people."

For the study, Marino conducted a comprehensive review of scientific literatures to summarize the cognitive, emotional, personality and social characteristics of domesticated chickens. Utilizing the Web of Science Core Collection, Google Search and Science Daily, Marino conducted a thorough search of the topic across different publications and peer-review journals.

Marino found that some research showed that chickens have some sense of numbers and ordinality. Newly-hatched domestic chicken can discriminate between quantities. At five-day old chicks could perform simple arithmetic in the form of addition and subtraction.

Other studies showed that chickens have some level of self-awareness. Chickens can manage to present self-control when it comes to holding out for a better reward. Additionally, chickens can self-assess their position in the pecking order.

Chickens communicate to other of their kind through a large repertoire of different visual displays and at least 24 distinct vocalizations. They use their calls, visual displays or whistles to sound an alarm during danger and warn others.

Furthermore, Marino found that chickens could also feel positive and negative emotions. These emotions may include fear, anticipation and anxiety. Chickens can choose to act based on the emotions they feel. Studies also showed that chickens possess simple form of empathy and some levels of personal maternity trait.

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