Today marks World Chicken Day. To honour this special occasion, we thought now would be the perfect time to celebrate our little feathered friends and their place in our lives. Chickens can mean different things to different people, so let’s dive further into the lives of these 'tiny dinosaurs' we are lucky to share this planet with.

Most of us know what chickens look like, and have probably spent some time pondering the age old question, whether the chicken or the egg came first, but there is much more to these beautiful birds that makes them so special.

So diving in, what are 10 facts about chickens that you didn’t know?

  • Yes, you read that first line correctly – tiny dinosaurs! As we’ve mentioned, chickens are the direct descendants of dinosaurs. Scientists believe them to be the animal most closely related to the T-Rex, and anyone who has watched a chicken run before will definitely notice the similarities.
  • Chickens have full colour vision that is better than ours, and they can tell each other about what they see with over 30 distinct vocalisations.
  • Chickens love to sunbathe and given the opportunity will lie down, spread their wings and soak up the sunshine. They also love to explore and will naturally run, jump and scratch.
  • Chickens are clever – they can remember up to 100 other chicken faces. Scientists have also observed them expressing self control and problem solving capabilities. Chickens understand that when an object is removed and is hidden from them, that it still exists, making them as clever as most toddlers in this respect.
  • Mother hens talk to their children, and their babies can reply by chirping back through the shells of their eggs! Hens will also fiercely defend their children from predators, meaning they are in fact not “chicken” at all.
  • Chickens have a pecking order and live in complex social groups called flocks. All chickens within the flock understand their place and this helps to keep order within the group.
  • A chicken’s earlobes can indicate the colour of their eggs! Chickens with whiter earlobes lay whiter eggs, and the Araucana breed can have pale blue ears and will lay pale blue eggs.
  • Chickens dream and experience REM while they sleep, just like us.
  • Roosters tend to have a favourite “wife” in the flock and will spend most of their time with their chosen one, favouring them when it comes to finding food and helping them to groom.
  • There are over 34 billion chickens alive in the world on any given day, and they outnumber humans 4 to 1.

Sadly, despite the above, chickens are one of the most abused animals on this planet. Humans raise and slaughter more chickens than any other animal every year, in fact 60 billion are raised annually for meat alone.

Most chickens born into the food chain do not get the opportunity to express any of these natural behaviours mentioned above. Many of them are allocated a space little over the size of an A4 piece of paper in which to live and will spend their entire lives in barns or cages.

Over 70% of these birds live in factory farms and reach their slaughter weight in less than 6 weeks, growing so fast that they often struggle to walk. Chickens raised to lay eggs do get to live slightly longer, around 18 months before they are slaughtered, but only if they are female. Male chicks are killed shortly after birth as they are of no use to the egg industry.

Still, 18 months is a much shorter life than nature intended, as chickens can live 5-10 years (depending on breed) when they are allowed to live out their natural lives into old age.

What can you do to help?

An obvious way to help is to stop buying and eating chicken meat and eggs. This important step helps to reduce supply and demand in animal agriculture, not only saving the lives of chickens but having a meaningful impact on our environment and the future of our planet at the same time.

Maybe you want to help more directly?

There are a number of wonderful sanctuaries throughout the UK and rest of the world that provide loving homes for chickens and other farm animals, many of whom have, or would have been, victims of the food industry. You can search your local area to find your nearest farm sanctuary, and will be able to donate food, money, or maybe even your time to volunteer if you feel like getting your hands dirty!

Or perhaps the above facts have inspired you to adopt a chicken companion of your own...

Chicken make excellent companion animals, and there are a number of charities throughout the UK, such as the British Hen Welfare Trust, that rehome ex-commercial hens to loving retirement homes across the country. You don’t need a huge garden to provide a home for a chicken, and there are a number of benefits to owning these funny little pets.

Most people who adopt chickens find it incredibly rewarding and are surprised by how much personality their hens have, and the bond that they form with them.

At IAPWA, we believe that every animal deserves a right to be safe from harm, living species-appropriate lives and enjoying a lifetime of happiness. Do you want to help us on this mission? Share this post with your friends and family on social media so perhaps they can learn something new about chickens too!

If you want more information about how you can help animals in need, then pop us an email at today.

Written by: Frances
IAPWA Volunteer