8 Amazing Facts About Chickens: Part Two
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In 2005, the fine folks at United Poultry Concerns declared May 4th “International Respect for Chickens Day”. A couple of days ago, we posted the first part of a list of 8 amazing chicken facts in honour of 8 years of IRCD. Here is part two.
5. Chickens feel empathy. A study carried out in 2011 at the University of Bristol showed that when chicks were exposed to “a puff of air” in front of their mothers:
…the hens’ heart rate increased and eye temperature decreased. The hens also changed their behaviour, and reacted with increased alertness, decreased preening and increased vocalisations directed to their chicks. (The foundations of empathy are found in the chicken)
6. Chickens love bathing–not in water, but dust!
For chickens, dustbathing is not only a cleansing activity; it is also a social gathering. Typically, one hen begins the process and is quickly joined by other hens and maybe one or two roosters. Soon the birds are buried so deep in their dustbowls that only the moving tail of a rooster or an outspread wing can be seen a few feet away. Eventually, one by one, the little flock emerges from their ritual entrancement all refreshed. Each bird stands up, vigorously shakes the dirt particles out of his or her feathers, creating a fierce little dust storm before running off to the next engaging activity. (The Social Life of Chickens)
Check out this absolutely wonderful video of rescued egg-laying hens who had never seen the sun in their lives enjoying their first dustbath at Animal Place Sanctuary:
7. Chickens can be great companions to humans and other animals too.
“People who know chickens as friends know that chickens are not ‘all alike.’ They know that, like all species with certain traits in common, chickens have individual personalities, distinctive identities, and unique ways of expressing themselves.” -Karen Davis
Here are links to just a few stories of chicken friendship:
- Chuckie the Orphan “I was surprised to find Chuckie would respond to his name when I called him. Even when I thought he was out of listening range, he would come flying around the corner upon hearing his name…he would respond to my calls, but seemed to ignore everyone else.”
- Muffie, a Personality Profile “I held Muffie a lot. Occasionally I would take her with me in the car, where at first she would always exercise her curiosity, looking out the window and poking about the seats and floor. Finally she would snuggle down next to me on the driver’s seat for the rest of the trip.”
- Fanny “Fanny expected to be greeted whenever we saw her, just like any friend who would feel snubbed if ignored. Miriam and pattrice did say ‘hello’ to Fanny, every morning and several times each day before saying ‘goodnight’ every night.”
8. Like all birds, chickens are descended from dinosaurs–but it appears that there may be a more direct link specifically between chickens and Tyrannosaurus Rex, though the findings are speculative and apparently under debate in the scientific community:
“The analysis shows that T-rex collagen makeup is almost identical to that of a modern chicken – this corroborates a huge body of evidence from the fossil record that demonstrates birds are descended from meat-eating dinosaurs,” said Angela Milner, the associate keeper of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in London. (T-Rex’s closest relative found on farm)
So on Saturday, May 4th, International Respect for Chickens Day, do an action for chickens! Take a moment to talk to your friends and family. Write a letter to the editor. Do an hour–or half-an-hour–or just 15 minutes!–of leafletting. Remind everyone that chickens are brave, smart, and sociable animals who protect their friends and love their babies just like we do.
You can do more! From 7 to 9 AM from April 30th to May 3rd, we will be outside the slaughterhouse at Commercial Drive and East Hastings Street to educate the public and to bear witness to the suffering birds who are trucked in everyday. (Would you like to join us or can you help to make signs? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
For more ideas of how to honour chickens, check out United Poultry Concerns here.