Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chickens are clever – and cunning

It’s well known that many birds are far
from bird-brained; and to that list, we can
now add the chicken. According to a US
research paper – issued by an animal rights
group – chickens are in many respects as
clever as primates. Behavioural scientists
conducted a meta-study of previous
research, and concluded that despite
having brains the size of walnuts, the birds
are highly sophisticated. For instance, they
communicate using a wide repertoire of
visual displays and at least 24 distinct
vocalisations; they are self-aware enough
to assess their position in a pecking order;
they can display self-control (they’ll refrain
from feeding if they think there will be a
better food reward later); and they have
a grasp of basic arithmetic – even newly
hatched chicks can discriminate between
quantities. Moreover, they are masters of
deception – males lure females by making
food calls when no food is present – and
have rich emotional lives: in their paper, in
the journal Animal Cognition, the
researchers say chickens appear to feel
fear, anticipation and empathy.

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