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Chicken behaviour: How do they identify predators?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by CelestialChicks, Apr 2, 2016.

  1. CelestialChicks

    CelestialChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 8, 2014
    Hello all,

    I have noticed an interesting phenomena that I cannot stop thinking about. Whenever my chickens encounter a cat on our yard, they go crazy and starts screaming, elongating themselves, seeking higher grounds etc. It's pretty cool, because sometimes I can't even see the cat but they somehow sense it (?). But when I take out my pet rabbit to run beside (which haven't happened a lot at all so it's not like they are used to each other) them they seem a bit suspicious at first but then completely ignores the rabbit.

    Do chickens somehow sense that they are being preyed on? How do they distinct another species vs a predator. How do they know when they are in danger or not?

  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I think what they look for in a predator is two eyes trained on them if the predator is novel to them. When they have prior experience with a given type of predator then simply detection of its movement can be enough to elicit anti-predator responses. In many instance you can have other flock members or even birds from other flocks instigate anti-predator responses through warning calls or by stopping contact calls and slinking into cover. Contact calls also serve to provide the all clear signal. Also hens can teach chicks what is bad news and get a response going even when chicks cannot detect threat themselves.
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Chickens have a predator instinct embedded in their DNA. The strongest of these is to run like mad for cover the second they spy something overhead. Even chicks in a brooder display this reaction.

    The other facet of this instinct is to be very alert to any thing or animal or even human of which they don't have prior recognition. This can be manifested in a panic reaction to having a foreign object such as a shop vacuum suddenly appear in the coop. Or here in my neighborhood, when the cows show up to graze in summer after being absent all winter, they get pretty jumpy since they also have frightening memories of bears, which are almost the same size and shape. Once they recognize the intruder as something they remember as being safe, they quickly settle down. Same with the vacuum. Once they see it won't pounce and eat one of them, they ignore it, even when I turn it on.

    Chickens have long term memories of experiences they've had with varying foreign things, and they combine these with instinct, and they know which to react to and which they can accept while going back to business as usual. This is where having an experienced adult flock helps in preserving the safety of the younger ones. Chickens may have relatively short life spans, but they have long memories.
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Instinct is the brain processing part as well as learned from prior experience. Nature of rapid movements also important. I do not think they can as well as we can once you are talking more than a couple feet away although they are very good at detecting movement from almost all direction excepting below and behind, directly above, and directly behind head. If they cannot make movement as friendly, nonthreat then what azygous says kicks as default response.

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