Although they seem like common birds that serve many purposes such as providing meat or eggs, chickens actually have interesting facts that make them more than just poultry. Here are some of these facts:
1. Chickens are descendants of dinosaurs and junglefowl
Domesticated chickens are thought to be a subspecies of red junglefowl, which is a member of the pheasant family that’s native to Asia. Genetic studies discovered that the grey junglefowl contributed to the chicken’s evolution.
On the other hand, a comparison of the structure of preserved proteins found in the soft tissue of a leg bone from a Tyrannosaurus rex (or T-Rex) showed an evolutionary link between the domesticated chicken and the well-known dinosaur.
2. They can show empathy
Like any mother, hens tend to be protective of their young. However, research conducted at the University of Bristol’s Animal Welfare and Behaviour Research Group showed that domesticated hens can clearly exhibit physiological and behavioral responses when their chicks are distressed.
These responses demonstrate that adult female chickens are able to show at least one of the essential attributes for empathy such as being affected by, and can understand the emotional state of others.
3. Chickens can communicate with each other
Within their flocks, chickens can perform complex communications that all have different meanings. For example, they have different alarm calls for different kinds of predators to allow other members of the flock to anticipate the threat and eventually decide what behavior to adopt.
Moreover, chicken families begin communicating with each other even before the chicks have hatched. Hens would “talk” to their eggs through a series of purring sounds while the unhatched chicks can peep from inside their shells.
4. Chickens can dream
Similar to other birds and mammals, chickens also have a rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep that signifies dreaming. However, these birds also have a phase of sleep that humans don’t: the unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS) where only half of their brain is resting while the other half remains awake. This is the reason why some chickens occasionally sleep with one eye open and the other closed.
5. The flu vaccine is produced in fertilized chicken eggs
Commonly, flu vaccines are made using an egg-based manufacturing technique which involves the vaccine virus being injected into a fertilized hen’s egg that’s incubated for several days to allow the virus to replicate.
The fluid containing the virus is then harvested from the eggs and the manufacturing process either kills the virus or creates a weakened version of it.
6. Hens can choose the father of their chicks
Female chickens can mate with different males but if she decides that she doesn’t want the offspring of a particular rooster, she can reject his sperm and go for a more suitable mate that’s available.