Breeders often treat chickens as commodities. Keepers mainly keep chickens for their eggs or meat. However, do they care about the emotions of the poor animals? Do chickens have feelings?
But should we care about the feelings of chickens?
We’ve seen many animals that don’t have feelings like humans. This set of animals can’t feel or show affection, even to their offspring.
In this article, you’ll learn if your chicken has any feelings at all. You’ll also learn what kinds of feelings your chicken has and their different reactions to hypothetical situations.
Do Chickens Have Feelings?
As surprising as it may sound, chickens do have feelings. They can feel a wide range of emotions, including fear and empathy.
Many studies have tried to prove this over the past few decades, and the results have always come out as predicted.
Since it is clear that chickens have feelings, it’s time to relearn how to deal with them. You cannot continue to treat your chickens like a lifeless commodity.
In the next section, I’ll explain which of your activities could hurt the chicken’s feelings and how to be more empathetic towards your chickens.
What Feelings Do Chickens Have?
While chickens could have different feelings, it doesn’t mean they can be jealous or happy when you have a new kid.
If so, what emotions do chickens have?
In this section, you’ll learn some of the emotions that your chickens can feel.
I hinted at chickens’ ability to empathize early in this article, so it’s not surprising that this appears here. Many studies have demonstrated chickens’ capability of empathizing with their chicks.
For example, they show high sensitivity when their chicks make potentially harmful mistakes, such as eating a small stone.
Also, chickens show some level of empathy to other chickens experiencing sorrow, but not as much as they do to their chicks.
Ever seen how protective chickens are to their chicks?
- Anticipation and time perception
This is a popular feature of intelligent animals, and chickens are no exception. Time perception has to do with the ability to sense the passing of time and plan accordingly.
As intelligent birds, chickens don’t live entirely in the present. They use their recollection of past events to predict the future and prepare accordingly for it.
While they might suck at time perception, they use other cues to predict frequent happenings.
The study involves feeding some hens after making a specific sound, shooting a squirt from a water gun after another sound, and doing nothing after another sound.
Within a short period, the chickens could already link the different rewards with the sounds. While they respond eagerly to the ‘feeding’ sound, the ‘water gun squirt’ sound caused visible distress in the chickens.
For chicken keepers, this won’t come as a surprise. Chickens can already link the appearance of someone with food, and when they sense danger, they flee.
And this is a feeling that you won’t want your chickens to have frequently, if at all. Just like humans, chickens can get frustrated when they’re stuck in a negative situation for too long.
Frustrating situations can occur in chickens more frequently than you think. They might not be able to get to a particular food; they might also be persistently unsuccessful in getting into a room or destination.
According to a recent study, students were tasked to train chickens using positive reinforcement. The students were skeptical that chickens experience complex emotions like frustration before commencing the training.
After the training, however, frustration, in conjunction with happiness and boredom, constituted the three emotional states of which the students had a different opinion.
If chickens can feel these emotions, then they’ll react psychologically when some things happen to or around them.
In the next few sections, we’ll see some of the activities that can cause psychological effects on chickens.
Do Chickens Get Attached To Their Owners?
The answer to this question isn’t black or white; it depends on how well the owner treats the chickens. No two owners are the same, so no two chickens will have the same attachment to their owners.
However, the line between a positive chicken-owner relationship and the attachment between the owner and food is thin.
Overall, chickens with a good owner will be happier than chickens with less caring ones.
Also, if internet stories are anything to go by, chickens turn to people they love and trust when they need help, signaling much more than a feeding relationship.
Do Chickens Recognize Their Owners?
If chickens don’t recognize their owners, then they cannot get attached to them in the first place.
While chickens might not recognize people with the visual cues humans use, they also have ways to recognize their owners.
Chickens can reportedly recognize up to 100 different human faces, although it’s unlikely that a chicken will constantly expose to that many humans in its lifetime.
Do chickens feel fear?
Fear is a necessary trait for all animals, including humans. For animals, especially ones that can’t fly, need to be able to sense a threat and act accordingly to avoid being eaten up.
Chickens have specific vocalizations dedicated to alarming other chickens in the flock of danger.
You don’t want fear to be a dominant feeling in your chickens, so you might want to clear their enclosure of any threats, ensuring their safety.
It’s almost impossible for an animal to survive without feelings. Animals have to feel fear to escape predators. In that sense, do chickens have feelings?
Chickens have feelings, as you can already guess. However, their feelings aren’t just the very basic feelings that are common in all animals. They also have complex emotions like empathy, frustration, and happiness.
Now that you know your chickens can feel all these, it’s time to treat them like animals that feel; and not commodities for business.