Raising and keeping chickens is becoming increasingly popular in both urban and suburban homes. If you thought chickens were just a way to get eggs, you are mistaken. There are actually lots of fun facts about chickens that highlight that they can be a great addition to your household.
One of the first interesting facts about chickens is that you don’t actually need to have a rooster for your chickens to lay eggs. Hens can lay eggs almost every day regardless of if they are mating. If there is no rooster, there is no risk of fertilized eggs. You only need a rooster if you want to incubate some eggs to produce chicks.
Like humans and other mammals, chickens do have REM phases of sleeping that signify dreaming. However, chickens have evolved to sleep with one eye open to guard against predators as they sleep. This is accomplished due to a USWS (Unihemispheric slow wave sleep) phase where one half of the brain sleeps while the other remains awake.
Chickens are known to be the closest living relative of the T-Rex. They evolved from dinosaurs that survived the mass extinction event 65 million years ago. Chickens have retained some primitive dinosaur like characteristics compared to other bird species. Take a minute to watch them run around your yard and you will see the resemblance to the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
If you’ve ever wondered why there are different colored chicken eggs, you’ll find this one of the most fun facts about chickens. The breed of the chicken influences the egg color. While the nutritional value of the egg does not change, White Leghorns lay the large white eggs typically found in grocery stores, however, dark brown eggs are typically laid by Black Copper Marans. However, there are some breeds such as the Araucana that lay pretty eggs in blue and green shades.
While you may assume that chickens are vegetarians, in fact they will eat practically anything. They love fruit and vegetables, but they will also eat dairy, meat and their own eggs if a shell breaks. This makes them a great addition to your yard. Not only will they eat insects that could damage your veggie patch, but they will also eat scraps. Just be aware that they may steal into your strawberry patch and help themselves.
Once you have chickens in your yard, you may start to realize that they make lots of different sounds. In fact, the chicken can make approximately 30 distinct sounds, with each bird and flock having its own tone. This allows the chickens to communicate that they have laid an egg, they are lost, if they have found a tasty treat or if a predator has been seen. Researchers have discovered they even have different sounds when they “talk” to humans rather than their fellow chickens.
Chickens can become like any other pet in your home. They can recognize the members of their flock and can also recognize different animals such as a dog or cat. They can even remember members of their flock or places after months apart. So, you will come to find that some chickens remember that you bring treats when you walk in the garden and come running over to greet you.
Studies have shown that chickens are actually quite smart and have traits in common with primates. They demonstrate complex problem-solving skills, demonstrate self-control and comprehend cause and effect. They can even experience anxiety and worry. Chickens will also share their knowledge, teaching chicks how to forage and which foods are bad to eat.
Chickens operate within a hierarchy. Each flock has a bird at the top and the rest of the chickens fall into a specific place below. This helps to keep order at times of stress or during mating season.
Newcomers into the flock are challenged with stares and chest bumping. There could even be squawking or scratching. The bird that gives up first will end up lower on the pecking order. Lower ranking birds are the last to eat and get the worst place in the roost.
You may watch chickens jumping and rolling around in patches of soil. This is essentially a dust bath and this helps the chicken to clean its feathers and protect itself from mites. They loosen the soil and shake about fluffing their feathers. Once they are done, they shake off the soil creating a cloud of dirt and dust, which is interesting to watch.
Another one of the most interesting facts about chickens is that they enjoy playing. Like other intelligent creatures, such as your pet dog, you’ll notice your chickens run, jump and play with others in the flock. You can even train your chickens to play fetch!
Although chickens can’t fly for long distances, they can fly up into a tree or over a fence. However, what makes them really amazing is that they can run in short bursts at speeds of up to 9 miles per hour. They are highly agile and can run and then jump to stay safe from predators.
Chickens have one of the largest populations of all bird species. There are over 25 billion chickens around the world, meaning they outnumber humans approximately 4 to 1. Despite these numbers, there are some breeds that are vulnerable to extinction. Industrialized farming has meant that heritage breeds are no longer preserved due to their meat or egg production potential. While this may not technically be one of the fun facts about chickens, it does highlight that you can do your part and choose a breed of chicken that is at risk for your backyard.
Hopefully, these fun facts about chickens have highlighted the fun and engagement you can get from having chickens in your backyard. These animals can be more than a way to get free range eggs, they can actually become a loving pet for your family.