07 November 2014

Interesting things about chickens

Excerpts from an article in the November issues of Harper's:
Before World War I, the majority of eggs came from people keeping a few chickens in their backyards in the suburbs. Today, barns of 150,000 hens are run by 1.5 men on average (one full-time worker in a single barn, another split between two barns...

In nature chickens live in smallish groups in overlapping territories. They have complicated cliques and can recognize more than a hundred other chicken faces, even after months of separation. They recognize human faces too...

Their eyes are especially ingenious. Human eyes work together and focus on one location, but chickens’ eyes work separately and have multiple objects of focus. A hen can look at a morsel on the ground with one eye and scan the area for predators with the other...

There are in fact no federal regulations regarding the treatment of animals on farms. We’ve heard of the Animal Welfare Act, but it turns out to exempt all animals on farms. There are only two federal protections that do apply to farm animals — one for slaughter and one for transportation. The USDA exempts chickens from both.
Much more information at the article, including informed commentary on the ethics and practical necessities of egg production.


  1. I've got eight backyard chickens, and they're fascinating to watch. Nature's YouTube.

  2. I always thought that it was fascinating that birds are tetrachromats, having four primary colors due to the four types of cones in their eyes. Not only that, but contrast how their color response curves are all nicely spread out at about 65nm apart whereas as primates that only recently re-evolved trichromacy our color response curve clearly indicates that our red receptor is a mutated green receptor. It would be truly amazing to see colors the way a chicken can.

  3. Our Canadian CBC Quirks & Quarks recently broadcast a chicken segment. Fascinating is the graphic showing the average size of the chicken in 1957and that of today's millennial bird. I'm not sure how to insert a link but it can be found here: http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/2014/11/08/2014-11-08-4/


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