Which came first, the chicken or the egg? And why did the chicken cross the road? Are probably two of the most asked and contemplated menial questions today.
But nobody has stopped to think that maybe these little guys just want to live their lives without having their motives questioned.
Chicken questions aside, there are some pretty fascinating facts about these birds that you might (and probably) don’t know. These farm animals have been part of human lives for many centuries and it’s worth getting to know them a little better.
Chickens are actually fascinating animals and go beyond the egg and meat suppliers as many people see them today. From having a great memory (one that gives an elephant a run for its money) to talking to their chicks, let’s understand more about these birds with the below facts.
- There are more chickens on earth than there are people, there are 25 billion to be exact, quite a substantial amount more than the 7.9 billion humans. Chickens also outnumber any other bird species.
2. Chickens have a remarkable memory and can distinguish between over 100 different faces of their species. It’s also believed that they can recognize people.
3. A mother hen can lay more than 300 eggs per year. On average, she’ll turn her eggs about 50 times a day.
4. The highest number of eggs laid by a hen in one day is recorded as seven. While the current record number of eggs laid in one year by a single hen is 371.
5. Chickens are actually a subspecies of fowl that hails from Southeast Asia, the Red Jungle Fowl.
6. The domestication of chickens happened around 8000 years ago in Southern China.
7. The color of a chicken’s egg can depend on the chicken’s earlobes. A hen with red or dark-colored earlobes usually means they will lay brown eggs. Hens with white earlobes then usually lay white eggs.
8. The older a chicken gets, the size of the eggs they lay also increases. Older chickens lay larger eggs but also fewer than when they’re young.
9. Chickens can taste salt but are unable to perceive the taste of something sweet.
10. Gainesville, Georgia, calls itself ‘The Poultry Capital of the World’ and they have pretty strict laws about how to eat chicken. Here, you are legally required to eat fried chicken with your hands. Eating it with a knife and fork or by any other method is illegal.
While this law does actually exist, it was more to promote Gainesville as the chicken center rather than have a jail full of people who ate chicken with a knife and fork.
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11. For a hen to be able to produce one dozen eggs, they need to eat about four pounds of feed.
12. The first and earliest known printing of the question “Why did the chicken cross the road?” was in a New York Magazine in 1847.
13. On average, every 0.05 seconds, 97 chickens are killed worldwide.
14. The United Kingdom underwent successful mass poultry vaccinations to combat salmonella infections which saw a dramatic decline in cases in the late 1990s.
15. There’s a very rare breed of chicken from Indonesia that is completely black due to hyperpigmentation. This includes the chicken’s feathers, beak, and organs. They can be sold for a whopping $2,500.
16. There’s an invention called a “chicken gun” which is used to test the resistance of an airplane’s windows and engines. This is done by blasting dead chickens at the aircraft.
17. Enjoy the taste of wild mushrooms? Well, now you can try one that tastes similar to chicken. The wild mushroom, Laetiporus, is said to taste the same as fried chicken and even has the nickname “fried chicken mushroom.”
18. In South Korea, you’ll find more fried chicken restaurants than there are McDonald’s restaurants all over the world.
19. Chicken wings used to be considered undesirable and were often thrown out. This changed in 1964 when a restaurant owner decided to barbecue and serve the wings. He called them Buffalo wings, after the city he first made them in, Buffalo, New York.
20. The most egg yolks found in one egg are 9 yolks.
21. The largest chicken egg that has ever been recorded weighed 12 ounces (340 grams) and contained two yolks.
22. The United States consumes 8 billion chickens per year which is higher than beef consumption. Yearly, 80 pounds of chicken are consumed per capita compared to 63 pounds of beef consumed per capita.
23. A chicken can still run the length of a football field before dropping dead after its head has been cut off.
24. You may be wondering, “can chickens fly?”. Well, the longest recorded chicken flight lasted for 13 seconds at a distance of 301 feet.
25. With prehistoric roots, chickens are the closest living relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
26. A chicken’s body contains 15% more water than a human body.
27. Scared of chickens? There’s a name for that, the fear of chickens is called Alektorophobia.
28. You can tell if an egg is fresh from the egg white. If it’s slightly cloudy, the egg is fresh.
29. Chickens are able to distinguish colors, they can also see ultraviolet light and iridescent hues, meaning they actually see more color than us.
30. Chickens also demonstrate Rapid Eye Movement (REM) while they’re sleeping, so they are capable of dreaming. They also dream in full color
31. When a chicken feels stressed, it’ll start to lose its feathers.
32. Hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs. Once they’ve reached puberty, hens start to release eggs regularly.
33. It only takes between 24 to 26 hours for a hen to produce an egg. And around 21 days for the egg to incubate and hatch.
34. The longest chicken to live (that we know about) was Matilda. Matilda lived till 16 years old, which is over twice as long as the average chicken lifespan.
35. Chickens communicate in their own unique language. They have over 30 different sounds that they use to chat.
36. Mother hens even talk to their baby chicks while they’re still in the eggs. The chicks can chirp back to the hen while in their shells.
37. Chicks can develop object permanence as soon as 2 days old, it takes human babies around 7 months. This means that chickens understand that when an object is moved and hidden it still exists.
38. Chickens are omnivores. Hens will even eat their own raw eggs if they are hungry or not satisfied with their diet.
39. Chickens take dust baths to keep themselves clean. They dig a small pit in the ground and use the dirt to release the oil in their feathers.
40. Chickens that listen to classical music, can lay heavier and bigger eggs.
41. Chickens may battle to run, but they are pretty quick on their feet. They can reach speeds of up to 9 miles per hour.
42. Chicken beaks are very sensitive and can even bleed. Scientists liken the beak to that of a human hand, deeming it an essential part of the chicken’s life as it uses it to detect, explore, drink and defend.
43. To attract hens, roosters will do a mating dance called “Tidbitting”. The dance involves a type of vocalization while moving their head up and down.
44. The chicken was the first bird to have its genome sequenced in 2004, this was done to find out the order of their DNA. This research is what helped determine that the chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
45. Chickens have a third eyelid. This is called the nictitating membrane and protects the eye from debris and dust by sliding horizontally over the eye.
46. The cognitive development and skills of a chicken are very similar to that of a dog or cat.
47. An experiment involving food proved that chickens can exercise self-control.
48. Most chicken eggs are typically laid in the morning between 7 am and 11 am.
49. Hens generally choose roosters to mate with that have larger and redder combs (this is the fleshy appendage on the chicken’s head). Scientists believe that the deeper the red of the male comb the more fertile he is.
50. Chickens were originally domesticated for cockfighting.
51. You can trick a hen into thinking a day is 28 hours by using certain lighting. This usually results in her laying bigger eggs.
So there you have it, all the weird and wonderful facts about the chicken. You’ve probably learned a whole lot more about this farm animal than you thought possible. From it being illegal to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork to learning that chickens practice self-control, which was your favorite fact?
If you’re an ornithophile (bird lover), why not check out these interesting facts about toucans.