Chickens feel empathy for each other. Researchers proved that domesticated hens show a clear physiological and behavioural response when their chicks are mildly distressed.
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Facts about chickens
- Domesticated chickens have been bred by humans from Asian jungle fowl.
- Scientists have shown that mother hens display signs of empathy for their baby chicks.
- Chickens are able to remember and recognise over 100 individuals; they can also recognise humans.
- Like other birds and mammals, chickens experience REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming.
- Chickens have very sophisticated social behaviour with a dominance hierarchy where higher individuals dominate subordinate individuals. This is where the term pecking order comes from!
- The dominant male (cockerel) protects the females (hens) and they choose to feed close to him for safety.
- Chickens perform complex communication where calls have specific meanings. They perform over 30 types of vocalisation that we are aware of with meanings varying from calling youngsters, alarm calls, and alerting others to the whereabouts of food.
- Chickens have different alarm calls for specific types of predators, which allow conspecifics to know the type of threat they face and what sort of anti-predation behaviour to perform.
- Chickens are able to comprehend that when an object is taken away and hidden from them, it still exists. Young human children are unable to understand this.
- Hens are extremely affectionate and caring mothers. In Christian writings, Jesus is said to have used the love of a hen for her brood to express God’s love for humans. In Ancient Rome, saying ‘you were raised by a hen’ was a compliment.
- Chickens can’t taste sweetness in foods however they can detect salt, and most choose to avoid it.
- The chicken is the closest living relative to the great Tyrannosaurus-Rex.
- The meat and eggs of chickens are widely eaten by people across the world. Many people who consume animal products would like to choose products from animals kept in higher welfare systems. However welfare labelling on products can be confusing. Find out more about OneKind's campaign for Better Food Labelling.
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