Are Chickens Really Stupid?

Rosie (L) Honda (R) Swiifer (Back)

I never thought too much about chickens before I started into the hobby of raising a few hens in my backyard a couple of years ago.  In fact, if you had asked me to describe a chicken before that time, I would have said that they were dirty, noisy and down-right stupid.   But, could you blame me?  That was what I learned as a child.

As a kid, I heard about Henny- Penny who was a paranoid chicken with delusional thoughts that “the sky was falling”.  I also recall the not remotely funny joke about the chicken crossing the road and the lunch bag let down punch line that had  no punch at all. Even my sister’s “knock- knock” jokes got better laughs than that tired chestnut!

As I grew older, I learned the hard way that a game called “chicken” had to do with my brother throwing his scout knife at my spread bare feet with the goal of making me flinch and be labeled a “chicken” for the rest of the day by our street hockey gang of kids.   Later on, I heard sayings like “running around like a chicken with your head cut off”,  “scarce as hen’s teeth” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”.  Even Fonzie, on Happy Days taught me that pretty girls were called “chicks” and I discovered that my friend, Giancarlo,  had an overprotective mom that my Dad referred to as a “Mother Hen”.  The list can go on and on, but has ANYONE ever taken the time to REALLY examine the exceptional qualities of the poor old chicken???????

Now, those of us who have gotten to know a chicken or two understand that these birds are anything but stupid.  They live in a social hierarchy where everyone knows their place.  Order is generally  the norm of the day and those that decide to step out of line are generally consequenced.   Now…that’s not a bad thing ….is it?

Chickens also look out for the welfare of the entire flock.  No better example of this is when a rooster or dominant hen will vocally   alert the entire flock of  impending danger.  In the chicken world, it’s never “every man/woman for themselves”.  If that was the case,  than the chicken would just run for cover and forget about the rest.  Instead, a rooster will make the call of alarm to alert his ladies of the danger and then stand his ground to take-on or sacrifice himself to the impending danger for his flock.    Hey……..now that’s a novel idea….looking out for your fellow-man!

As for memory, they have incredible capacity, given that their brain is the size of a cashew nut.  They can come when called (provided that food is offered), they have the ability to distinguish between strangers and owners (they act pretty “chicken” if they don’t know you), they know when to return to the coop at night  and understand what bugs and greens are safe to eat. I’ve seen many a dog who couldn’t get a passing grade on some of these “brain teasers”. I recall many nights that our Lab dove into the garbage buffet, only to hurl it all back up  an hour later.(My apologies if you are reading this post at Breakfast!)

But, the greatest feat of all…………is that the chicken creates delicious eggs!  Have you ever stopped to think about this astounding feat?  I’m not aware of any other creature in the world that can produce a 2 oz. (or more) egg almost EVERY SINGE DAY.   It doesn’t matter if it’s 85 degrees in August or well below freezing in January, my hens continue to lay.  And, to make it even more impressive, these birds have managed to wrap this delicious offering in a strong calcium package which preserves this tasty treat for weeks!

From a nutritional perspective, the chicken egg contains  all essential amino acids for humans and an extensive list of vitamins and minerals as well! Because of this, nutrition scientists have given the egg the esteemed title as the best food in the entire world for complete proteins.   But what’s most impressive is that this egg equates to around 3% of a chicken’s body weight.  In other words, these “stupid” creatures manage to produce their ENTIRE body weight in eggs within 30 odd days and continue to do so for several years! Now…that’s truly incredible!

So, the next time that you tuck into those eggs for breakfast or crack a few in a bowl for baking or cooking, give thanks to the stupid chicken.  Maybe then, we’ll stop giving these incredible creatures the bum rap that they definitely don’t deserve and hold them in a higher regard.

4 days of work!

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