How Smart Are Chickens? Part 2

Last year I researched a little on the intelligence of chickens. Effie the leghorn seemed to be the brightest of all the chickens I have had, so I decided to teach her some tricks. I successfully taught her to play a little child’s xylophone and to do a simple card trick. The card trick involved shuffling ten or so cards on a table and inviting her to select the queen of hearts by pecking on it.  Most of the time she would select the queen very quickly, but sometimes she would make a mistake and peck the jack of clubs. Does this mean she isn’t smart? I think it means she is very clever; she obviously can see that the face cards are different from the others, but it’s probably asking too much for her to tell the cards apart by suit. But given that she mostly picks the queen, I’m interested to know exactly what it is that she finds to distinguish the queen from the jack.

Pecking Order

It’s been a long, long time since I added a post to this blog, for which I must apologise. I have not been suffering from poster’s block, only from being technologically challenged. Anyway, I have made the decision to press on regardless and fiddle with the site as I go.

Since I last posted, the chicken population at my place has increased to three. The latest addition is Melissa, a buff coloured Wyandotte hen. Her introduction to the coop was not without incident, as Effie made sure that everybody knew just who was boss right from the start. This involved a great deal of flapping and pecking and chasing, and culminated in Effie actually sitting on Melissa’s head for an entire night.

Any overtures of friendship that Melissa made towards Cyclops were immediately thwarted by Effie descending on her like an avenging demon. Since Effie paid almost zero attention to Cyclops before Melissa arrived on the scene, I found that surprising.

However, I’m happy to report that the dust has since settled and harmony reigns.

How Smart are Chickens? Part I

How Smart are Chickens? Part I

Smarter than the average toddler, if a recent news article is anything to go by. Dr Christine Nicol from Bristol University has postulated that chickens are capable of grasping concepts that take small humans years to learn. These include the concept of objects which are out of sight continuing to exist, and weighing up the benefits of delayed gratification (yep, I’m tipping that one isn’t a big hit with your average toddler).  Andy Lamey from Monash University has also weighed into the whole chicken smarts issue, with his speciality being  primitive self-consciousness and avian cognition and how it relates to current theories in moral standing.

All this comes down to a chicken having a reasonably well developed sense of self. More than, say, the butcher bird living in our yard who is constantly attempting to assault the interloper he thinks he sees in the window of the Mistubishi ute, and probably not as much as your average Gen Y’er, so  I don’t think there will be a sudden rash of chicken selfies on Facebook. (“This is me, like, chillaxing at the Nesting Box last night after a hard day’s egg laying – ZZZ”)

Welcome to the Hen Pen

Welcome to the Hen Pen

Welcome to the Hen Pen. In this blog I hope to deal with the really big issues – life, the universe, and chickens. When I told this to my partner, he was stunned by the scope of my intentions. Life and the universe you may be able to cover, he said. But chickens – that’s really, really big.

By way of introduction, I share my life with two chickens, Cyclops and Effie.  Cyclops is an ISA Brown ex-battery hen. Effie is a white Leghorn cross and a newer addition to the coop, but is number one in the pecking order. ( Not very impressive to put on the chicken CV as pecking orders go, being just the two of them. ) Cyclops is a veteran egg layer and Effie is just commencing her career.

Why blog about chickens? I had considered concentrating on food – I mean, everyone likes food, but there are just too many good food bloggers out there. So instead of a cookbook, this blog will be my chook book. There may be entries on the vegetable garden from time to time, if I can think of a way to stop the chickens trashing it.

And how does the subject of chickens relate to life and the universe? Well, how does it not? Is not one of the most puzzling philosophical questions of our, or any other, time, the conundrum of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”?

Perhaps more on that in the future.