How do chickens know an animal is a predator if they've never seen them?

Sobek

Songster
Aug 12, 2018
397
539
151
orlando florida
I was taking a nap outside with the chickens because I was worried about them since they got attacked. Didn't want to fall asleep and leave them vulnerable so I took a nice nap outside. While I was laying down my chicken walks closer to me and she starts to purr and make this weird noise so I looked up and there was a snake she was trying to warn me about. It was a harmless black racer so I went to go catch it and cook it for the chickens lol!!! It ended up getting away as I violently chased it through the grass. I was just wondering how my chicken knew that?? I'm sure she's seen snakes before.... But what if they've never seen snakes?
 

pwiker

Chirping
Jun 19, 2017
78
98
71
Lancaster, PA
My experience with chickens is that everything that they are is genetic and I would imagine that selective pressure has imprinted directly into their brain structure shortcuts for certain types of predators. Snake detection for example may very well be 'built in' to humans (see this article). This may be similar in chickens.

Have you ever wondered how they are born from an egg with no mother and still they learn how to dust? I mean, I raise them with dogs and they still act like chickens!
 

Compost King

Free Ranging
Apr 19, 2018
3,304
11,493
707
Salisbury, North Carolina
My chickens ran from a Rabbit that hopped toward them, but they chase my cats who could kill them if the cats were determined enough to do it. I guess they fear anything that doesn't fear them, and they chase anything that runs away. They stopped chasing the cats after they saw a cat kill a wild bird. Now the 2 species ignore each other except when the cats get up high and watch the chickens scratch and peck.
 

twilightgecko

Songster
May 25, 2016
507
789
211
Upstate N.Y.
also, what where they attacked by?
if mine have had close calls, they are terribly nervous..
a month ago, mine wouldn't free range, just hide and come to me for protection.. so i watched them to see if they'd give me clues.. they would look up to the sky.. so what scared them was an aerial predator [hawk or owl]., also, they kept staring at a spot behind the run and would dart so fast from run to coop.. so i went to explore that area and found a dead crow, just a few meters away.. soo.. yup, they saw something from the safety of their run..
and after a scare, they stay skiddish for awhile.. i had to coax them out for some supervised free ranging..
 

Sobek

Songster
Aug 12, 2018
397
539
151
orlando florida
also, what where they attacked by?
if mine have had close calls, they are terribly nervous..
a month ago, mine wouldn't free range, just hide and come to me for protection.. so i watched them to see if they'd give me clues.. they would look up to the sky.. so what scared them was an aerial predator [hawk or owl]., also, they kept staring at a spot behind the run and would dart so fast from run to coop.. so i went to explore that area and found a dead crow, just a few meters away.. soo.. yup, they saw something from the safety of their run..
and after a scare, they stay skiddish for awhile.. i had to coax them out for some supervised free ranging..
a possum the first time at night... It was a long story but it was kinda my sisters fault. I DID leave them out but she agreed to get me home before sunset then decided to back out on her word because she wanted to do what she wanted to do. I cried I saw feathers everywhere and I found the possum just chilling and started screaming at it and ran to get the shovel. It had a dumbfounded look on it's face like it was surprised anything could possess that much anger... When I was doing that and crying "mama's, mama's" I saw my chickens peaking their necks out of the place they were hiding and they started to cry out to me. The other chickens were just hiding on top of things. The second time it was a cat in the morning. I took my headphones off because I heard my chicken make a noise and I ALWAYS investigate when I hear them cry. As I was going up to the door to look out the window she started crying almost like if you pick a chicken up by it's legs or like it was getting dragged away... I called out to her and bursted out of my door and turned the corner like a murder tank. I ran with so much energy and force the cat took off immediately so I chased it and went as far to climb under a car it was using for cover. Cats probably get used to humans and don't think they are any threat but I wanted to make it feel like I was and that I would protect them. Honestly I would have killed the possum or even the cat for trying to eat my chickens. People argue urhhhh it's nature lol you can't be mad at for an animal for trying to eat your chickens urrhhh. But it happens in nature all the time where animals protect their young and fellow herd, flock, pack mates and fight and potentially kill the threat. So why can't I do it for my girls? I truly love and need my chicken "babies"
 

RodNTN

Hatchaolic
6 Years
May 22, 2013
7,064
9,690
587
The Volunteer State
My Coop
My Coop
For my chickens, it's how the animal watches them. I have a few pet cats outside, if one just walks by, not even giving the chickens a second glance, my chickens are not bothered in the least. On the other hand, if another cat sticks around, and eyes them suspiciously, they'll either get away from it or chase it away.
 

twilightgecko

Songster
May 25, 2016
507
789
211
Upstate N.Y.
@Sobek i'm sorry about your losses. my birds are my babies. my pets and i completely know how you feel.. i lost most of my flock last year to foxes.. they free ranged a year with no problem.. my neighbours had a dog that stayed out all night and must've kept the foxes away.. the day they moved to Florida, i lost my first hen.. it took me a while to get cameras set up and figure things out.. i built my girls a run.. foxes are sneaky things.. i had one get snagged going from the run to the coop which is only 20 feet away.. attached to my house even..
anyway.. i will protect my birds like i would a kid.. yeah.. i'm known as the pied piper of chickens around here.. lol

here's to a healthy flock this winter.. :)
 

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