You don't know what you don't know until you know it. Here are twenty fun and interesting things you probably didn't know about chickens.
- Hens have their own version of the morning after pill. If she decides after mating that she doesn’t want a particular rooster’s offspring (usually when he’s lower in the pecking order) she can eject his sperm.
- The chicken genome was sequenced in 2005 – making it the first bird to be sequenced.
- At around 25 billion chickens in the world, there are more of them (all breeds combined) than any other bird species on the planet.
- The chicken is actually a member of the pheasant family. Gallus domesticus, as chickens are more scientifically known, is a domesticated subspecies of the red junglefowl. The red junglefowl is a member of the pheasant family that is native to Asia. Further genetic studies have found that the grey junglefowl also played a part in the evolution of chickens as we know them.
- Chickens were originally domesticated and bred for cockfighting, not as food.
- Chickens hold the honor of being the leader in food production. More chickens are raised and killed for food than all other land animals combined.
- Chickens never forget a face. Well, maybe not never but they can distinguish between more than 100 faces including yours and your family’s. Mine even recognize my dogs.
- Chickens experience REM sleep – which means they are capable of dreaming. I wonder what a chicken dreams about?
- Chickens are chatty! There are more than 30 known types of vocalizations including different vocalizations to coincide with different predator threats.
- Chickens are smarter than human babies! Italian researchers have successfully demonstrated that young chicks have a sense of “object permanence” from as early as two days old. Human babies don’t reach this milestone until they are around 6-7 months old.
- Chickens have three eyelids. In addition to the usual top and bottom eyelid that work together to close simultaneously and meet in the middle of the eye chickens have a third eyelid – called the nictitating membrane. The nictitating membrane is a transparent membrane which opens and closes horizontally and operates independently of the top and bottom eyelids. It also has its own lubricating duct.
- Chickens are not colorblind. In fact, they see color better than humans do. While humans have three cones to help them differentiate red, green and blue chickens are also able to differentiate violet and ultraviolet light. What’s more, the color differentiating cones in chicken’s eyes are more evenly distributed than in the human eye making it even easier for them to differentiate color.
- Chickens can run up to 9mph.
- Mike the headless chicken (a Wyandotte) was documented to have lived for 18 months AFTER being beheaded. Apparently, as long as you don’t sever the brain stem (and are willing to provide food through a dropper for the rest of its life) a chicken can live quite a while without its head. But why would you want it to?
- Chickens can be sweet – but they can’t taste it. They can taste salt in foods though, and generally tend to avoid it.
- A chicken is comprised of approximately 75% water.
- The oldest living chicken was 22 years old. She was a Red Quilled Muffed American Red Game named Muffy.
- The Guinness World Record for the smallest chicken egg is 2.7cm but there has reportedly been another find of a 2.1cm chicken egg found in 2011 by a Rev. Donnie Russell of South Carolina.
- The largest chicken egg is reportedly 9.2cm long and 6.3cm wide and weighs a whopping 201grams making it three times heavier than a standard sized chicken egg. The proud owner resides in Heilongjiang Province, China. The same hen is reported to once have laid four eggs in a single day.
- The world’s largest chicken weighed in at 23lbs 3oz. “Big Snow”, a White Sully, was bred in Queensland Australia by Ronald Alldridge and died in 1992 of natural causes.
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