Many folks don’t consider chickens to be like other birds, such as parrots or crows, and are typically thought to be somewhat dumb and void of much personality. The truth is, chickens are highly emotional and display as much intelligence as other species that are believed to be smart. But that raises the question: do chickens also have a good memory?
As a whole, chickens can remember past experiences, perceive time intervals and may also be able to anticipate future events.
The memory of a chicken is impressive, especially with their abilities to comprehend math and show the capacity for memorizing places and events. Chickens are truly smarter than humans ever thought! Even I have found myself pleasantly surprised by my flock’s memories of people and past situations. They’re especially good at remembering who has the best food! Keep reading to find out more about chicken memory.
Do Chickens Have Good Memory?
According to a scientific study, chickens have the ability to remember negative and positive past events, people, other animals and places. The length of a chicken’s memory has yet to be scientifically decided.
From my own experiences with chickens, I can say that they are pretty good at remembering things especially if it was associated with something negative, or if food was involved. Especially super yummy food! They always remember if an area was a good source of snacks.
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What Are Chickens Good At Remembering?
Chickens will use their memory skills for several things. Typically, just as you can probably imagine, negative events such as something scary or painful will stick out in their minds. They will also remember things like where good food is and where to find that delicious snack the next time.
Chickens will often remember things such as:
- Individual people’s faces and voices
- Who or where a food source comes from
- Painful stimuli
- Negative events or emotional trauma
A great example of food-driven memory motivation is how my flock reacts to my kid. My daughter likes to spoil the chickens with vegetable scraps and yummy fruits. The chickens LOVE her. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t even have to call them anymore, they will recognize her, even from the back of the property, and come running! It’s a sight to behold, that’s for sure.
In some studies, 5-day old chicks were able to remember the placement of their preferred food before it was set down. Showing even at that age, the chickens capacity for episodic memory.
In the same way that children learn not to touch the stove when it is hot, animals, including chickens learn quickly after a negative experience, whether it’s emotionally or physically painful. They will react to the sound of a dog’s bark if they have had a traumatic event with a dog in the past.
My flock will run away from this large deck broom that I used to corral the chickens back into their coops in the evening time. I only had to do this a few times while they were young and first learned that the coop is where they go when it’s dark out. However, they don’t care about other brooms that look different or the rake I use to clean their coop.
Chickens are no dummies! Once something has caused them physical pain or discomfort in some way, they will try to avoid it.
One of my hens won’t go near the cattle fence at all because she got too curious one day and was shocked by it. The fence is at a super low level, literally as low as it can, because my horses don’t mess with it anymore. The other hens will get closer but still avoid it because they watched what happened to her, another reason why I believe chickens are intelligent and have memories like most animals we consider smart.
Believe it or not, chickens are pretty social creatures. They enjoy spending time with each other, and trust me, a lone hen is usually not a happy one (do you know how to tell if a hen is happy?).
Chickens are quite good at remembering specific people’s faces and voices too, as well as other chickens and animals. Like I mentioned before, my flock can spot my daughter from 50 yards away. They will cluck excessively if they can hear her but not see her.
Through some studies, chickens were able to identify specific individuals’ photographs. They would peck at the required photo, earning them a reward.
Do Chickens Have Better Long Term Or Short Term Memory?
While there isn’t a lot of information about the long-term vs short-term memory of a chicken, they have shown capabilities of long-term memory and many instances of short term.
Long Term Memory: With long-term memory, we have seen that they will respond to stimuli that they had been negatively exposed to only once several weeks or months prior. This indicates that they have some long-term memory retention. They also have the ability to remember a person or animal that they haven’t seen in months or even years.
Short Term Memory: Short-term memory is tested more easily with minor trials involving hiding toys or foods in certain places and seeing if the chickens will remember.
How Do We Know That Chickens Have Good Memory?
While there have been fewer memory and cognition trials performed on chickens than they’ve done on crows, pigeons or parrots, we still have enough information to prove that this feathered fowl is truly capable of more than a goldfish memory.
There have been several examples of data collected that can demonstrate the memory capacities of the chicken species. Below will be several examples to explain how people have decided that chickens are much smarter than we used to believe.
Studies claim that self-control defines the ability to resist immediate gratification for a later benefit. This not only shows the chicken’s capacity for memory but also how they plan for a future outcome.
Domestic chickens were able to demonstrate self-control when being tested with food. They were challenged with the option between a 2-second delay for 3 seconds of food access, or a 6-second delay for 22 seconds of food access. The hens held out for the larger reward, showing the species ability for memorization, self-control and future planning.
Recognition And Hierarchy
Chickens are very skilled at remembering hens and roosters from their own flock as well as identifying those that are unfamiliar to them. They will also recall fights or alterations among other hens, careful to remember which one was the winner so they know if they should challenge her later or not.
They are also great at recalling the faces of humans that they’ve decided they like or dislike. You’ll be able to figure out which one it is by their reaction to that person!
Fear And Emotional Responses
A chicken’s response to a certain situation or stimuli can be a big indicator of how their memory is. A hen has not been exposed to a specific place or circumstance in months or even years, yet when they are subjected to that same stimuli again, they show a clear emotional response, indicating that they remember it from the past. These can either be examples of short or long-term memory depending on the length of time that has passed.
When a chicken shows a preference for a certain place, person or food, it is also showing their capacity for memory. The idea that they can have something they’d want more than another only proves that they remember past experiences with less likable options.
A Chicken’s Memory: More Than What You Would Expect
For years, people have assumed that chickens were some bird-brained creatures that mindlessly pecked at the dirt and were only good for eating and laying eggs. Science has finally disproved that and shows that chickens are much more than we ever expected. With a memory as good as most animals, chickens have a capacity for empathy, self-control and short or long-term memory.
Don’t let these egg-laying ladies fool you, they will remember who brings the good snacks!
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