A scientist from The Someone Project conducted an analysis of past research on chicken behavior. She found that chickens can count and have other signs of intelligence such as complex vocal communication, good problem solving, and self-control. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal Animal Cognition.
Many birds are known for their high levels of intelligence, especially crows and parrots. Oddly, chickens have a reputation for being unintelligent, simple creatures even though they’re birds. There is already a wealth of research on chicken cognition but these studies are often overlooked.
Lori Marino, the senior scientist of The Someone Project, organized and reviewed modern studies of chicken cognition. The aim of The Someone Project is to inform the public about the intelligence and emotional capabilities of animals in an effort to improve farm animal welfare.
Marino found that chickens show a remarkable level of intelligence on par with parrots and other “smart” birds. Chickens have number sense and can count. In one study, young chicks were able to track the changes of two object quantities as they were hidden behind screens. They could consistently point out where the larger quantity was hidden, even when the puzzle required addition or subtraction. Chickens can also predict where a ball will end up based on its trajectory. They can do this even when the ball is briefly hidden from view. Unlike most animals, chickens have a high level of self-control and are capable of turning down food rewards in order to get a better one later. Chickens have complex vocal communication that consists of 24 vocalizations which can communicate different types of danger. Marino also found studies that showed chickens predicting future events in problem solving exercises. In addition, she found research suggesting that chickens have a wide range of emotions, just like other birds.
The review of chicken cognition shows that they have problem-solving abilities, number sense, emotions, and other traits shared with “intelligent” birds such as parrots. Many people write off chickens as unintelligent animals with simple emotions but these findings suggest that they’re just as smart as other bird species.
Marino, Lori. Thinking chickens: a review of cognition, emotion, and behavior in the domestic chicken. Animal Cognition (2017).