Amazing behavior, smart chickens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Dave Z, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. Dave Z

    Dave Z In the Brooder

    May 29, 2009
    Thought I'd post this just because it surprises me. Generally, I think of chickens as being pretty stupid birds, with just enough instinct to keep them alive. Not smart enough to even learn their own names. But three times now, they've done something that surprises me. They come to me and ask for help. Here are the stories.

    #1 - We had what I think may have been a new Hampshire Red hen. She was a great hen, built and feathered like a BO, but red, although not as dark as a RIR. One of the most vocal hens we've had, pleasantly vocal, like she was singing. Anyway, I got her as an adult and she was a nice friendly hen. At one point she ended up being alone. Predators and other issues had taken the rest of the birds. Anyway, one night about 10 o'clock, she shows up at the back door in a panic, all excited, out of breath. We let her into the kitchen and I swear she was pointing with her wing, down towards the coop, like she was trying to say "Down there (pant, pant) ... something scary (pant, pant) ... make it better (pant, pant)." So I grab a light and head down there and find a young possum licking up the remnants of an egg. I looked back towards the house and Little Red had gotten up on the sink and was looking out the window, monitoring the removal of the intruder. I dealt with the possum and we let Little Red sleep perched on a bench by the back door that night, as she didn't want anything to do with the coop. By the next day she seemed to have forgotten and went back to sleep in the coop. I reinforced the fencing around the coop soon afterwards, but sadly, a coyote got her when she was free-ranging one day.

    #2 - I have an EE hen that is at the bottom of the pecking order, so sometimes I let her free-range while keeping the others locked in the coop/run, just to give her some peace. One evening I forgot to let her back in with the others before bedtime. So as the sun was setting, I was at the computer doing something and suddenly I hear a boom on the patio door, kinda like when a sparrow hits the glass but much bigger. Chicken size, in fact. So I go running to see what's wrong and Squawk is standing by the door looking in. I realized, "Oh, she can't go to bed..." so I went out and she ran towards the coop. What amazed me is that she knocked on the door to say "I need to go to bed, come open the gate!"

    #3 - Similar situation, except the run gate was open, and all the birds were free-ranging. But earlier in the day, I had blocked the little door from the run to the coop to isolate one hen in the coop so I could catch her. So when dusk came, they could all get into the run, but not the coop. My wife was at the sink and noticed Squawk jumping up on the bench by the door and looking in the window. My wife went to the door and said "What are you doing Squawk? Shouldn't you be going to bed?" Squawk jumped down and ran about 10 feet towards the coop, then stopped and looked back. My wife didn't know the door was blocked, so she went back to what she was doing and figured Squawk would go to bed. Well, about 10 minutes later we heard a big boom on the door. I went to look and Squawk and Bubba the rooster were standing there. I realized right away that I had left the door blocked, so I grabbed a light (it was pretty dark already) and headed for the coop, with Squawk and Bubba leading the way. When we got there, all the other hens were crowded into the corner by the blocked door, as if Squawk told them "You all stay here, I'll take care of this...Bubba, come with me." Again, it was as if she knocked on the door.

    Even after seeing this myself, I can hardly believe chickens are smart enough to figure such things out. I'd be interested in hearing other stories of chicken resourcefulness if y'all have some.

  2. jojo54

    jojo54 Songster

    Aug 24, 2009
    BC Canada
    You sound like my DH used to sound about chickens. "Chickens can't think, they don't have much of a brain, etc. etc." He thinks differently now that he has spent time with Lulu, our lame, part-time house chicken. He sees things she does or hears my stories ablout her and realizes that they are smarter than people give them credit for. Granted there are some very dumb clucks but not all of them all the time.
  3. Chicken.Lytle

    Chicken.Lytle Songster

    Oct 19, 2010
    Montgomery County, TX
  4. BorderKelpie

    BorderKelpie Songster

    Mar 1, 2009
    outside Dallas

    That was kind of petty, Chicken.Lytle. I would have done the same thing, tho.

    Dave Z, I have often wondered how chickens could have ever survived since I haven't seen much in the way of reasoning power in them, but I have a bantam hen that surprises me occasionally. I do believe she is the smartest of my flock and my Buckeye hen, Mary Elizabeth comes in second. The rest, well - suffice it to say, I will be taking care of the poor little simpletons for a looong while, I'm sure. lol

    Good thing they're cute.

  5. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    There are feral chickens in the neighborhood to the south of us.

    I have a client/friend that lives there and he says if he is not up by sunrise to go out and give them scratch with BOSS, she will jump up on his bedroom window sill and peck on the window until he comes out to feed them.
  6. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    When I first moved to our home I had a flock of semi-feral bantams. I also keep quite a few beagles. A fox discovered the chickens, and the chickens soon discovered that the fox would not come close to the dog pens. All heck would break out in the morning when the chickens came down from their roost (the white pines in back of our house.) The dogs would be barking, the bantams would crowd against or perch on top of the dog pens and the fox would dart around a "safe" distance from the dog pens. Bye, bye mr fox. Later a family of GHO discovered this same flock. They moved from the pines to the shrubs close to the house. When the GHO discovered the new hiding place, the chickens reluctantly started sleeping in the chicken coop. Smart? Adaptive for sure.
  7. nanawendy

    nanawendy Songster

    Dec 28, 2009
    Bellingham Wa
    Cute stories...Thanks for sharing. I have 2 SS, Sarah and Susie. They too sunk out of the designated free range area and we couldn't find them at night. The next morning they were at the back door waiting to be let back into the yard. They said to me" It's ok mama, we hunkered down when it got dark" I had another @ my front door, squawk "hey you guys let me in"
    These animals do have brains... the question is when will they use them.

  8. tammye

    tammye Songster

    Mar 22, 2010
    I think my girls are pretty smart. They all know their name and come to me when called. They know white plate means food, all you have to do is carry anything white and they will follow you off a clift. They love to watch my husband work and come over to check out his work, they just want to make sure he did it right!
  9. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    If I go out the back door and they are in the weeds or trees, say 75 feet away, I say "here chicky chicky" and they all start running toward me, for treats, of course. What I find interesting is, some will run all they way to me, and others will stop and then start pecking and scratching wherever they are. So I repeat and they repeat. Some need 3 or 4 calls and some just the one. I'm convinced the ones who stop have forgotten where they were going.

  10. nanawendy

    nanawendy Songster

    Dec 28, 2009
    Bellingham Wa

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