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30 January 2014
“The Startling Intelligence of the Common Chicken,” Scientific American

Feb 1, 2014 |By Carolynn L. Smith and Sarah L. Zielinski

  • “Mounting evidence indicates that the common chicken is much smarter than it has been given credit for.
  • The birds are cunning, devious and capable of empathy. And they have sophisticated communication skills.
  • That chickens are so brainy hints that such intelligence is more common in the animal kingdom than once thought.
  • This emerging picture of the chicken mind also has ethical implications for how society treats farmed birds.”

To read the entire article you must subscribe to Scientific American or purchase this particular issue; but even if you don’t sign up, you can post an appreciative and informative comment.


The coauthor of this article, Carolynn L Smith, published a paper in Between the Species, August 2012, titled “The Chicken Challenge,” which is available for free download at http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/bts/vol15/iss1/6/. This paper summarizes:

The science outlined in this paper challenges common thinking about chickens. Chickens are not mere automata; instead they have been shown to possess sophisticated cognitive abilities. Their communication is not simply reflexive, but is responsive to relevant social and environmental factors. Chickens demonstrate an awareness of themselves as separate from others; can recognize particular individuals and appreciate their standing with respect to those individuals; and show an awareness of the attentional states of their fellow fowl. Further, chickens have been shown to engage in reasoning through performing abstract and social transitive inferences. This growing body of scientific data could inform a rethinking about the treatment of these animals. (pp. 89-90)


Carolynn L. Smith and Jane Johnson. Aug. 2012. The Chicken Challenge: What Contemporary Studies of Fowl Mean for Science and Ethics. Between the Species 15(1): 75-102.

To learn more about the startling intelligence and sensitivity of chickens, see Thinking Like a Chicken at http://www.upc-online.org/thinking.

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