Friday, March 7, 2014

Chickens startle scientist with their smarts

 Carolynn L. Smith and Sarah L. Zielinski did some research on chicken intelligence and were surprised to find how smart they are. It gratifying to see chickens getting some recognition.  Their report was published in the February 2014 issue of Scientific American.  

"In the animal kingdom, some creatures are smarter than others. Birds, in particular, exhibit many remarkable skills once thought to be restricted to humans: Magpies recognize their reflection in a mirror. New Caledonian crows construct tools and learn these skills from their elders. African grey parrots can count, categorize objects by color and shape, and learn to understand human words. And a sulfur-crested cockatoo named Snowball can dance to a beat.

"Few people think about the chicken as intelligent, however. In recent years, though, scientists have learned that this bird can be deceptive and cunning, that it possesses communication skills on par with those of some primates and that it uses sophisticated signals to convey its intentions. When making decisions, the chicken takes into account its own prior experience and knowledge surrounding the situation. It can solve complex problems and empathizes with individuals that are in danger."

One chicken in particular was so clever they couldn't create a latch she couldn't open. This revelation comes as no surprise to those of us who  have observed chickens closely,  but it's good to see chickens getting attention in the top rung of science publications.

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