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20 Weird and Wonderful Facts about Chickens


Chickens are endlessly fascinating. The more time you spend with them, the more you discover how intensely complex these creatures are. Here are 20 weird and wonderful facts about chickens:

  1. If all the chickens on earth were evenly distributed among all the people on earth, each person would have at least 3 chickens.
  2. The chicken is the first bird to have its genome sequenced, allowing poultry breeders to more readily identify the most productive strains.
  3. A chicken not only learns to recognize its own name, but also knows the names of other chickens in its flock.
  4. A chicken’s color vision is better than a human’s, encompassing not only the red, blue and green wavelengths we can see, but also ultraviolet wavelengths we can’t see.
  5. A chicken’s vocabulary includes at least 30 words, and more than likely several others that have yet to be identified.
  6. Chickens are among the closest living relatives to the Tyrannosaurus rex; if they weighed as much they’d be just as scary.
  7. Hens and their hatching chicks converse through the shell, allowing chicks to recognize their mother’s voice by the time they enter the world — a trait essential to the chicks’ survival.
  8. Chickens prefer to bathe in dust, rather than in water; dust bathing both controls external parasites and conditions a chicken’s feathers.
  9. Chickens can swim, and some actually enjoy it, but to avoid drowning they need to be able to get out of the water when they’re ready.
  10. Chickens establish a social hierarchy, the pecking order, and removing members or adding members to a flock causes stress.
  11. Each female chicken starts life carrying the beginnings of thousands of undeveloped yolks, but a hen rarely lays more than a small percentage of the eggs she started with.
  12. Although a rooster is needed in order for a hen’s eggs to hatch, a rooster is not needed in order for the hen to lay eggs.
  13. A chicken’s digestive, excretory and reproductive tracts come together at the cloaca; when an egg is laid, the intestinal opening is pressed shut so a hen can’t lay and poop at the same time.
  14. The only continent that has no live chickens is Antarctica; the only country with no chickens is Vatican City — although the Vatican keeps a chicken flock 26 miles away in the city of Castel Gandolfo.
  15. A hen’s estrogen output may be reduced by aging, infection or a tumor, causing her to produce testosterone and develop a larger comb and male plumage, mount other hens and even crow.
  16. Although rare, a chicken can be both male and female, with half of its body looking like a rooster and the other half looking like a hen — a phenomenon called bilateral gynandromorphism (pictured here).
  17. How many feathers does a chicken have? To settle an argument, an Ohio man once took time to count every one of a Plymouth Rock’s 8,325 feathers.
  18. Chicks molt three times before they mature, then annually thereafter, although renewing an entire set of plumage may take as long as three years.
  19. A light weight chicken releases about 120 pounds of droppings per year, a heavy breed averages 180 pounds; and chickens poop even when they’re asleep.
  20. Chickens need their beauty rest — to maintain good health, a chicken needs 6 to 8 hours of darkness and restful sleep.

And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.

Gail Damerow, author, The Chicken Encyclopedia


7 thoughts on “20 Weird and Wonderful Facts about Chickens

  1. wow thanks

  2. I have a large cat that enjoys running through my chicken flock on occasion just to watch them fly up and freak out. I always know if he’s nearby because the chickens will start clucking differently. He’s not the only large cat I have, so the chickens definitely recognize him.

  3. Very interesting they know their names like cats and dogs,

  4. wow that was fun reading. Never knew half of them. Names never dreamed a chicken knew her name. I bought a blond color chicken and just called her blondie she seem to know But I did not. Just used the name to identyfy her. LOL in the summer I fill up lgal containers with water and freeze for the chickens to lay next to. Works pretty good. But I was concerned not the chickens. They did not seem to care one way or another. My birds are contained no free range here. They can distroy a garden in a matter of minutes. Enjoyed your article keep thm coming. Sonja

  5. Whew! That is a lot of facts! I did enjoy learning more about them. Just think of all the chicken enthusiasts who created all of these interesting breeds from the days long ago, for us modern chicken owners to enjoy!

  6. Truly enjoyed the facts about chickens the one that I really liked was the fact that the chickens know their name and they know the names of the other chickens in the flock I have a flock and I often thought this but now I can confirming

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