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8 ‘Did-You-Knows’ about Chickens U just Gotta Know

The Secret Life of Chickens revealed on livingmsia, just for you.
The Secret Life of Chickens revealed on livingmsia, just for you.

AS A CNY 2017 YEAR OF THE ROOSTER SPECIAL, Livingmsia is presenting: 8 Did-You-Knows you can’t afford not to know if you’ve got any feelings for the chicken. Hey, they can share your pain and see your point of view you know, they are a lot more cognizant than you think they are and that, dear readers, would be your first Did-You-Know about them.

Chickens are affected by and share the emotional state of fellow chickens. Pic from www.scienceworld.ca
Chickens are affected by and share the emotional state of fellow chickens. Pic from www.scienceworld.ca

The Daily Mail has reported that chickens can ‘feel’ each other’s pain (click the link to read more). That means we’re talking empathy, a trait once thought to be uniquely human.

The article said British researchers studied hens and chicks because these chickens showed clear maternal attributes in caring for their young.

Jo Edgar, a Phd student at Bristol University, who led the study, said: “Our research has addressed the fundamental question of whether birds have the capacity to show empathic responses.

“We found that adult female birds possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of empathy ─ the ability to be affected by, and share, the emotional state of another.”

Mother hens’ reactions were observed when their chicks’ feathers were ruffled with a puff of air.

When the chicks showed signs of distress, these emotions were mirrored by their mothers. The hens’ heart rates increased, their eye temperature lowered ─ a recognised sign of stress ─ and the hens became increasingly alert.

Chickens communicate by vocalizing and through body language. Pic Marji_beech_daisy_and_lilac400
Chickens communicate by vocalizing and through body language. Pic Marji_beech_daisy_and_lilac400

Levels of preening were reduced and the mothers made more clucking noises towards the chicks.

These findings were documented in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

But it’s not just for their chicks that chickens have feelings for. The emotional contagion they have for each other is so strong, they can mourn for each other.

Now isn’t that an eye-opener? Read on to discover more Did-You-Knows you never knew.

Related Story ~ Poultry in Motion: 10 of the World’s Most Stunning Chickens

1 Did-You-Know: Chickens Learn Who You Are and Know a Lot More about the Human World than You think they do?

Living together in harmony and communal sharing. Pic from omlet.com
Living together in harmony and communal sharing. Pic from omlet.com

Chickens can recognize up to 100 faces, both of the human race and of their own kind. Not only that, they have incredible memories of people, places, things and situations for up to months, and know their names (when kept as pets) when called. They are also incredibly fast learners, can count and are intelligent enough to solve complex problems including mathematical ones such as geometry. When hunting grasshoppers for instance, they use geometry to calculate with precision, where the insects are destined to land (and go to the spot to catch them), rather than try to chase and catch the insects in flight.  Chickens are not bird brained at all.

2 Did-You-Know: Chickens ZZzzzzzzz a lot and they Dream too?

Chickens love sleeping in a sunbeam, love to nap and experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.  “In birds,” says yourchickens.co.uk, “REM occurs for just a few seconds at a time whilst in humans, it can last from several minutes to an hour. REM sleep is dream time.

Which means chickens dream. Probably in full colour too, because…(see next factoid)

3 Did-You-Know: Chickens have Fantastic Birds-Eye-View of the World?

Sharp eye sight, very, very sharp.
Sharp eye sight, very, very sharp.

Chickens have superior vision. Their sight is in full technicolour ─ no color-blindness at all. In fact, says Live Science, chickens see colour better than humans.

On top of that, their retinas have so much superior light-sensing structures, they see daylight 45 minutes before humans do. Which explains why cocks crow at the crack of dawn, well before we humans detect sunlight. (Conversely, it won’t ever crow if kept in darkness. That’s a fact!).

4 Did-You-Know: Chickens Communicate with and Care for one another?

Mother’s love. And this chick knows it. Does it remind you of human behaviour? Pic from animalsaustralia.org
Mother’s love. And this chick knows it. Does it remind you of human behaviour? Pic from animalsaustralia.org

Chickens have their own language in the 30 distinct vocalizations they use to communicate with one another. For instance, the warning cry for a predator that is coming on the ground is different from the cry for a predator coming from above. Chickens also “talk” to their babies before they are hatched, and seem to be more advanced than humans in this area as we’ve only bought into the notion of talking and playing music to our unborn babies in recent times to establish bonding.

Hens defend their young from predators and are protective and maternal. Pic from animalsaustralia.org
Hens defend their young from predators and are protective and maternal. Pic from animalsaustralia.org

But from time immemorial, chicken families have been talking to their unborn children. The mother hen talks to her eggs (often with a purring sound), and the chicks begin peeping back to her from inside their unhatched eggs. After hatching,  mother hens teach and guide and care and protect their babies.  For example, in tests, hens have taught their babies to stay away from color-coded grains that are bad for them.

5 Did-You-Know: Chickens lay Blue and Green Eggs apart from the usual White and Brown?

These are not birds’ eggs but full-fledged chicken eggs. Eggshell colours run through different shades of white to blue to dark brown. The secret is in the breed.
The inside of a brown egg is white, the inside of a blue egg is blue.
The inside of a brown egg is white, the inside of a blue egg is blue.

No, the colours are not due to dye. Blue, Olive Green, Chocolate brown, and Pink are among the colours that chickens lay outside of the usual white and brown.  The eggshell colouration is due to the breed which carries the gene for pigmentation.

Blue eggshell colour comes from biliverdin; brown eggshell color comes from protoporphyrins. Pink eggs are the result of small quantities of a rosy brown pigment, while green eggs have both blue and brown pigments (achieved through crossbreeding blue and brown egg layers).

(It is interesting to note, however, that when you crack open a brown egg, the inside of the shell is white, but when you open a blue egg, the inside of the shell is blue).

Those eggs come from these layers. From Left: The Ameraucana pic by chickenbreedslist (for blue eggs). Olive Egger mixed breed pic by countrysidenetwork (for green eggs) and Black Copper French Marans pic by Cackle Hatchery (for dark brown eggs).
Those eggs come from these layers. From Left: The Ameraucana pic by chickenbreedslist (for blue eggs). Olive Egger mixed breed pic by countrysidenetwork (for green eggs) and Black Copper French Marans pic by Cackle Hatchery (for dark brown eggs).
A French Copper Black Marans egg
A French Copper Black Marans egg

The Breed for Blue Eggs: The chicken world has three blue-egg layers: the Ameraucana, the Araucana, and the Easter Egger (mixed breed). The American Poultry Association (APA) only recognizes the Ameraucan and the Araucana as pure bred, blue-egg, breeds. Considered good layers, The Ameraucana, lays three, medium blue eggs a week.

The Breed for Green Eggs: Green egg-layers, such as Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers, are created by cross breeding a blue-egg-laying breed and a brown-egg-laying breed and those hens possess both blue and brown genes. Therefore the eggshells are green on the outside (created by mixing blue and brown) and blue on the inside.

The Breed for Dark Brown Eggs: Marans, the breed of chicken originating in Marans, France, lay natural gorgeous dark chocolate brown eggs. Revered by chefs worldwide, Marans eggs are thought to be superior in quality to other breeds’ eggs as they have less chance of carrying salmonella. French Copper Black Marans roos are renowned for laying the deepest brown eggs.

Quick Explanation of the Multi-Coloured Eggs:

Pic from Fresh Eggs Daily
Pic from Fresh Eggs Daily

“There are only two true egg shell colours,” says countrysidenetwork.com,”Blue and white. The gene that makes blue egg shells is dominant over the gene for white eggs. Brown eggs are really white eggs with a brown tint or coating. Green eggs are really blue eggs with a brown tint or coating. Just as there are many shades of brown eggs there are many shades of green eggs. You can tell if an egg is truly white or blue when the inside egg shell colour matches the outside.”

For more on Eggs on Livingmsia, read:

Brown Eggs, White Eggs, What’s The Difference?

Decoding Egg Yolk Colour

6 Did-You-Know: Chickens descended from the Tyrannosaurus Rex?

Behold: the Tyrannosaurus Chook. Not so far-fetched if you think about it.

Chickens are believed to be the closest living relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. So says the latest research on paleantology.

Tyrannosaurus Rex may have been called a “tyrant lizard” but its lineage has been traced forward to that of chickens rather than modern day lizards like the alligator or crocodile.

Says the UK Telegraph: “Analysis of a shred of 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex protein ─ along with that of 21 modern species and an extinct mastodon ─ confirms that dinosaurs share common ancestry with birds, particularly chickens and ostriches, and to a lesser extent, alligators.”

The new study was made possible due to the 2003 discovery of a female Tyrannosaurus rex’s leg bone where intact soft tissues found inside paved the way to confirm. the T rex’s  evolutionary link with chickens.  The findings were reported in the journal Science and publicised worldwide.

Live Science, along with many others, who also carried the report, says chickens and T. rex  share a molecular ancestry proving that birds evolved from dinosaurs and birds are living dinosaurs.

7 Did-You-Know: Chickens Eat Meat and are in fact, Omnivores?

Omnivorous. Pics from left: Avian Aqua Miser.com, Liveto110.com, natural chickenkeeping.com.
Omnivorous. Pics from left: Avian Aqua Miser.com, Liveto110.com, natural chickenkeeping.com.

Chickens are omnivores, this means they eat both vegetables and meat.   In the wild, chickens eat grain, seeds, fruit, other vegetation, and insects. They also eat worms, mice, moles and frogs and lizards. Chickens like girt in their diet, which helps them to digest their food.

Other interesting biological factoids on the chicken are:  Chickens don’t pee. Yes, chickens don’t pee, it’s mixed in the poop. A chicken’s heart beats more than 300 times a minute while its neck has more bones than a giraffe’s. It can’t taste sweetness either but it sure can taste saltiness.

8 Did-You-Know: Chickens have Relatively Short Lifespans?

Matilda. 1990 to 2006. Pic by CC BY-SA 2.5, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5738205
Matilda. 1990 to 2006. Pic by CC BY-SA 2.5, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5738205

 

Chickens don’t live long: A chicken’s average lifespan is 7 to 8 years although the oldest chicken, according to the

Guinness Book of World Records, was Matilda. Born in 1990, the Old English Game breed hen, a pet of Keith and Donna Barton of Alabama, died of heart failure at the ripe old age of 16 on February 11, 2006. She was a trained hen and performer, has been on TV many times and had fans all over the world. She is now commemorated to memory.

However, that record is now contested. Apparently, according to facebook and several other sites, the oldest living chicken is Muffy, a Red Quill Muffed American Game, who at 22 years old as of 2011, was born on 01 Jan 1989 and belongs to Todd McWilliams from Maryland, USA. How true that is, we will never know.

And there you have it, folks ─ the story of the chicken you never knew. Gong Xi Ga Cai, Happy New Year and to take your breath away  and leave you with a smile at the end of this story ─ eye candy of a handsome cockerel.  Scroll down 😀

Look at those colours! Enough to brighten your day!

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