Chickens are inquisitive, interesting animals who are as intelligent as mammals like cats, dogs, and even primates. They are very social and like to spend their days together, scratching for food, cleaning themselves in dust baths, roosting in trees, and lying in the sun.
Chickens are precocious birds. Mother hens actually cluck to their unborn chicks, who chirp back to their mothers and to one another from within their shells. Unlike most birds, baby chickens can survive without their mothers and without the comfort of a nest—they come out of the shell raring to explore and ready to experience life.
Chickens understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation.
Chickens comprehend cause-and-effect relationships and understand that objects still exist even after they are hidden from view. This puts the cognitive abilities of chickens above those of small human children.
When in their natural surroundings, chickens form complex social hierarchies, also known as “pecking orders,” and every chicken knows his or her place on the social ladder and remembers the faces and ranks of more than 100 other birds.
People who have spent time with chickens know that each bird has a different personality that often relates to his or her place in the pecking order—some are gregarious and fearless, while others are more shy and watchful; some chickens enjoy human company, while others are standoffish, shy, or even a bit aggressive. Just like dogs, cats, and humans, each chicken is an individual with a distinct personality.
Chickens are social animals who form complex social hierarchies and interact in complex ways that are indicative of what anthropologists call “culture.” Chickens learn from observing the success and failure of others in their community.
Chickens communicate with each other through their “clucks”. They have more than thirty types of vocalizations. They have different calls to distinguish between threats that are approaching by land and those that are approaching over water.
Like all animals, chickens love their families and value their own lives. The social nature of chickens means that they are always looking out for their families and for other chickens in their group. In the wild, chickens spend most of their time in groups—they enjoy foraging for food, taking dustbaths, and roosting in trees together at night.
Besides bonding to their young, chickens also form strong friendships and enjoy spending time with their companions, just like we do.