Keeping chickens as pets continues to grow in popularity across the country, and it is estimated that there are over 5 million pet chickens kept in the UK. That’s more than hamsters, birds, guinea pigs, and even rabbits – combined!
On that note, let’s learn some more about our feathery friends with these 18 fun facts:
18. Their earlobes dictate their eggs.
What? Well! What we mean is, the egg colour a hen will lay depends on her genes, and these same genes determine the colour of her earlobes. If she has white earlobes, she’ll lay white eggs. If she has red or dark earlobes, she’ll lay brown eggs.
17. They talk to their chicks before hatching.
Much like we humans talk to babies in the womb, chickens have been spotted ‘talking’ to their eggs, so that they recognise their mother once they’ve hatched. Some chicks even chirp back from inside their eggs!
16. They can lay 300 eggs per year.
As most modern-day chickens have been bred for egg production, hens in their prime can lay 250-300 eggs per year, whereas wild chickens may only lay 10-15.
15. They eat oysters? Sort of!
According to the RSPCA, “Chickens need insoluble grit to help digestion (e.g. hard flint grit).” However they also eat soluble grit – such as oyster shell – as it’s a good source of calcium for them.
14. They take dust baths.
It may sound counterproductive to roll around in the dirt to clean oneself, but when you’ve got feathers as dense as a chicken, it’s the best way. As a chicken keeper, you can even sprinkle certain dried herbs into their dust bath area that have health benefits. For example, dried rosemary can help to repel insects.
13. They have better eyesight than humans.
Not only do chickens see in colour, they can also see wavelengths we cannot – infrared and ultraviolet light. That means they can see the sunrise up to an hour before we can! Speaking of eyes…
12. They have three eyelids.
And chickens aren’t alone; cats, kangaroos, rhinos, and other animals have developed these extra lids to help them keep their eyes clean and free from irritation. As they don’t have handy hands like us to rub their eyes, their third eyelid does it for them!
11. They’re the most common bird on the planet.
Numbering 25 BILLION, not only are chickens the most populous bird, but they also outnumber us humans more than 3 to 1. Imagine they all decided to attack at once! Scary stuff!
10. They know their own names.
Not only can chickens recognise when their name is called if it is used consistently enough, they can also recognise the names of other chickens around them.
9. They’re apparently much smarter than us.
Not only does chicken intelligence rival cats and dogs, chicks of only 2 days old can comprehend object permanence, which takes most humans 7-8 months. Thankfully, it does appear that our intelligence overtakes theirs, eventually.
8. They dream!
Much like us, chickens’ eyelids sometimes flutter and twitch when they’re asleep, which is indicative of them being in REM sleep. And since they can see in colour, they are probably dreaming in colour too!
7. They need friends.
Chickens are very social animals, and for this reason the RSPCA recommends having at least three hens if you keep chickens, so that they don’t get lonely.
6. They have a strict hierarchy.
You’re probably familiar with the phrase ‘pecking order.’ Did you know we got that phrase from observing chicken behaviour? The bigger chickens will literally peck the smaller ones to establish who’s boss.
5. They’re speedy.
An average chicken can run up to 9mph, which is slower than humans (Usain Bolt can run 27mph), but still impressive for their size. Even more impressive is their agility. While running, they can turn incredibly quickly, which helps protect them from predators.
4. Their combs change size.
When a hen is about to lay an egg, the comb on her head will get bigger and redder! Their combs can also indicate to their owner how other areas of their general health are doing. For example, according to the British Hen Welfare Trust:
- “A dry, shrivelled or flaky comb may be an indicator of poor health
- A comb with a blueish tinge, purple colouring or dark tips may indicate a circulatory problem
- An adult hen with a tiny comb may indicate the hen has a serious health issue
- Greyish white spots on the comb can be caused by fungal conditions
- Nodules on the comb may be a symptom of fowl pox”
3. They’re good with faces.
They can remember up to 100 faces, but not just of other chickens! They are able to differentiate between our faces. That means they can develop bonds with everyone in the family individually.
2. They don’t have bladders.
Unlike us, chicken’s don’t excrete a stream of urine. Rather their kidneys convert what would be urine into white crystals, which leave their bodies in their faeces.
1. They love us!
If their owners treat their pets with love and care, these chickens can develop a close relationship with them. They will even enjoy being petted by their owners!