Think a chicken is just a stupid bird? Well think again! Chickens are actually pretty intelligent birds for how small their brain is. Ok they may not be solving geometric equations and discovering the theory of relativity but they do have a language. Those clucks and chucks actually have meanings! For example when a rooster finds a particularly tasty morsel of food he will rapidly cluck and peck the ground. This means nothing to us but to the hens its him saying, "Hey! I found something really yummy!". Another example is that charicteristic, "COCKADOODALDOO!" that we all love sooo much at three a.m., am i right? That is the rooster saying, "This is my territory and these are my hens!". This call also can tell other roosters of his age and health so they are not tempted to challenge him. The rooster is not the only chicken with a voice though.
All group animals have a way to warn their group of danger. For a chicken this could be a land predetor, foxes, or areal predetors such as hawks. When a hawk is spotted one of the chickens will alert the others and they take cover under trees, bushes, or in the shelter. But when a fox is spotted they go into the trees and into other high places. But how do they know which place to hide? Well a vocal analysis done by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania showed that the alarm call for an air predator is different than that of one for a land predator. This show that their is more happening in that head than just a bunch of random clucks.
So far we have only talked about the vocal communication between adult birds, but these communications also occur from mother hen to chicks. Mother hens have been known to cluck to their eggs, and even stranger the eggs reply! Well not the eggs but really the developing chick inside of the egg. The mother hen will communicate to these unhatched chicks as a sort of encouragement. Its as if she is saying, "Come on you can do it!", and its not just her. The chicks will actually communicate to one another through egg shells. When one is hatching its constant peeping encourages the others to hurry up and hatch. So even when they havent seen another chicken in the world they already can speak their "language".
I was gifted enough to volenteer at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. While working one day i stayed to watch the barnyard show. during this show i watched chickens do some great tricks. They were doing just as well at these tricks as dogs do. This is when i really noticed that they are way more intelligent than people give them credit for. Maybe the chicken had a reason for crossing the road after all.
So far i have shown you how chickens can speak and learn tricks, but if you're still not convinced than what if i told you chickens are capable of rationally making decisions. Don't believe me? Just watch this video. . Next time i would think twice before using bird brain as a derogetory term.
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