Why do people think chickens are dumb and dirty?

Rooapalooza

Songster
Aug 7, 2019
342
1,363
192
Texas
I recently saw a news story online about people getting sick from backyard chickens. At the time, I thought my computer was stalking me like usual and knows I'd be interested. When I was building my coop, for example, I suddenly started seeing ads for pre-fab chicken coops everywhere. (Rude!)

Then I remembered that several of my family members tried to dissuade me from getting chickens. "They carry diseases! They are dirty! They stink! They are loud!" they warned. Why did they think that? I doubt they'd ever thought about/googled chickens before, and I've never in real life heard of anyone getting sick from their backyard flock.

Also, the universal stereotype about chickens is that they are stupid (and cowardly). It takes less than ten minutes being around chickens to realize that isn't true. Since it used to be common for people to raise their own flocks, shouldn't people know better? So many idioms come from chicken keeping, it's obvious to me that they were/are important to our culture.

At this point, I started to think maybe there has been widely circulated negative propaganda about chickens.

Here are my questions:

1) Where did these stories of people getting sick from chickens originate? Is it possible that they are motivated by corporations who have financial interests in repressing backyard chicken keeping?*

2) Why do people think chickens are dumb? How did that idea enter into and become accepted by the general public? Was this also a corporate ploy to get people not to care about how chickens are treated?


*To be fair, I periodically see a story about a person getting very sick/dying from dog germs, and I don't think those stories are widely distributed for political or financial corporate reasons. I just can't see anything interesting enough about the chicken stories to justify how often I hear about them.
 

Abriana

Spicy Sugar Cookie
Apr 26, 2017
4,734
50,066
1,177
Midgard
It is true that chickens carry salmonella and that you can get quite sick in some serious cases. I have been hugging and even occasionally kissing my birds for three years and I have never been sick, I have also never heard of anyone getting sick. But chickens do carry it and you should always wash your hands after handing them!

Chickens aren't exactly "smart", but they do have good instincts. They know how to be a mama without being taught, how to forage, dust bathe, etc (usually the mom teaches them the basics of foraging and dust bathing but chickens raised without a mom also figure it out, if slower). People who don't know chickens very well assume they are dumb just because of many ideas out there about chickens, myths and stories mostly. I personally wouldn't call them intelligent, but I would say that they are very good at being chickens!
 

Criticalicious

Crowing
Feb 25, 2017
881
1,641
262
New Market, VA
The most recent story about getting sick from backyard chickens is from CDC's website (a trusted source), and a few years ago when H1N1 was growing the disease came from people living too closely with their chickens in China. Having said that, there are quite a few people adopting and raising backyard chickens without doing their homework, maintaining proper biosecurity, or at the very least, washing their hands. I cringe when I see chickens walking around in people's homes without wearing a diaper or something. If you have chickens, you have poop - lots and lots of it, and poop can carry icky things like E. coli and salmonella. So there's that.

Egg-producing chickens are highly intelligent, social animals in the right conditions (me tossing dry leaves in the run is for example, the wrong conditions for acting smart). Meat-birds however are not raised for their smarts. The average joe doesn't know the difference between one breed or another, or that there is one. Some people don't even realize that chickens come in colors besides white or that roosters are chickens too.:pop
 

Rooapalooza

Songster
Aug 7, 2019
342
1,363
192
Texas
I agree that chickens could be a source of germs if you don't clean up after them. I wash my hands after I clean up after my other animals, and after handling chickens. I just don't see a difference hygiene-wise between a cat/dog/chicken. All of them are potential germ carriers, and you have to clean all of their poops.

I've never raised meat birds so I don't know about their intelligence, but I've seen some people on here who have saved them and raised them as pets. The consensus seems to be that they are very sweet but heavy and prone to health problems.

My question is, where did the myths and stories about chicken dumbness come from?
 
Top Bottom