Chickens Fact sheet
Chickens are highly social animals and have cognitive capacities that match mammals and even primates. Find out more about these interesting animals!
There are more chickens in the world than there are people.
Chickens are the closest living relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
A chicken can have four or five toes on each foot.
There are over 150 varieties of domestic chickens.
In 1863 Charles Darwin published an inventory of the chicken breeds existing at that time. There were 13.
Domestic chickens are not capable of long distance flight, unlike other birds.
A group of chickens is called a flock.
Over 50 billion chickens are reared annually for meat and eggs.
Chickens farmed for meat are called broiler chickens.
Those farmed for eggs are called laying hens.
Female chickens who are over a year old are called hens.
Younger females are called pullets.
The lifespan of a chicken is between five to ten years.
Chickens are able to remember and recognise over 100 individuals. They can also recognise humans!
Like other birds and mammals, chickens have dreams.
Chickens have very sophisticated social behaviour with a dominance hierarchy where higher individuals dominate subordinate individuals. This is where the term ‘pecking order’ comes from!
The dominant male (cockerel) protects the females (hens) and they choose to feed close to him for safety.
Chickens perform complex communication where calls have specific meanings. They perform over 30 types of vocalisation that we are aware of with meanings varying from calling youngsters, alarm calls, and alerting others to the whereabouts of food.
Chickens are able to comprehend that when an object is taken away and hidden from them, it still exists. Young human children are unable to understand this.
Hens are extremely affectionate and caring mothers. In Ancient Rome, saying ‘you were raised by a hen’ was a compliment.
Chickens can’t taste sweetness in foods however they can detect salt, and most choose to avoid it.
Some important points to consider:
Roughly half a billion chickens are killed for their flesh in Australia every year. The majority are crammed into overcrowded sheds, where they are unable to express simple natural behaviours.
Birds are selectively bred to grow much faster than their bodies can cope. At just five to seven weeks of age, the survivors are trucked away to be slaughtered.
In Australia, around 12 million hens are locked in tiny wire cages (called battery cages) with up to five other birds. ‘Barn laid’ laying hens are forced to live in windowless sheds with tens of thousands of other birds.
On battery farms, ‘barn laid’ farms, and even some ‘free-range’ farms, birds have the tips of their beaks cut off with a hot blade. This painful procedure is done without pain relief.
Around 18 months of age, hens slow in their egg production. These hens are no longer seen as profitable and are killed and replaced by four month old hens, who in 14 months will face the same fate.
At hatcheries, where egg laying hens are bred, the male chicks are not considered profitable. They are gassed or ground up alive soon after they are born.