In the grand scheme of things, chickens aren’t considered to be the most interesting birds in the world.
However, these everyday egg-layers actually have a lot of fascinating secrets. Here are some of our favorite chicken facts you should know before you start growing a flock of your own!
1. What the Shell?
Did you know that chickens can lay all kinds of strange-looking eggs…including eggs without shells?
That’s right! Chickens can lay shell-less eggs. These eggs often come out in one piece, but they’re only held together by the membrane that would normally line the inside of the shell.
This can happen for a number of reasons, including age, stress, or a calcium deficiency!
2. A Cluck of Many Colors
Another chicken egg fact: not all eggs come out white or brown, though they’re the only ones you’ll see lining grocery store shelves!
Depending on the breed, chickens can lay eggs in all kinds of fun shades, including pink, green, blue, cream, and even speckled.
And don’t worry–color doesn’t affect edibility! You can eat a green egg (though, maybe don’t pair it with green ham) just as safely as a white one.
3. An Elephant Never Forgets…and Neither Do Chickens
A lot of us have heard stories of crows and other corvids remembering faces. These birds have been known to remember people who are nice to them…and people who aren’t!
Crows and ravens have even been recorded bringing “gifts” to people who are kind to them and offer food or other treats.
A fact about chickens that might surprise you: they actually share this trait!
Just like corvids, they have “episodic” memory. Episodic memory is the ability to not only remember specific people, but also to remember how those people made the chicken “feel.”
So if someone is mean to your chickens, they may avoid them the next time they see them…or try to peck at them!
4. Clucking Hens: The “Baby Mozart” of Poultry Moms
Many expectant mothers have been advised that letting their unborn baby listen to classical music can help with brain development. They are also often advised to talk to their baby before they’re born to start the bonding process.
This idea is backed up by nature, as proven by our next chicken fact–mother hens do the very same thing!
Mother hens will cluck to their chicks even before they hatch. In fact, as the chicks get closer and closer to hatching, you might be able to hear them talking back to their mothers!
5. Chickens: The Garbage Disposals of Birdkind
Chickens are not picky birds. In fact, contrary to popular belief, they’re not even herbivores!
Chickens will eat everything, from grains and oyster shells to mealworms and meat. They’ve even been known to eat their own eggs if they’re experiencing a nutritional deficit. This usually occurs if they aren’t getting enough calcium or protein.
As strange as it sounds, they’ll even eat chicken meat.
6. Prepare for the Chicken Uprising–We’re Outnumbered!
With that speed deficit in mind, prepare yourself–we’re falling behind in another area, as well.
The chicken population vastly outnumbers the human population. There are over 34 billion chickens on earth currently; there are only eight billion people.
Let’s just say that if the chickens gain consciousness and decide to rebel…well, our odds don’t look good.
7. Hydrophobic Hens
Chickens are the furthest thing from a water bird you can get–they don’t even use it to bathe!
Instead, they use dust baths to clean their feathers and keep themselves dry and cool.
In fact, chickens are such dry creatures that they don’t even sweat. Instead, you might notice them panting if they get overheated–sort of like dogs!
8. Trying to Win a Rooster Race? Good Luck!
Though chickens aren’t very skilled fliers, they are surprisingly fast runners. Chickens can run up to nine miles per hour–that’s faster than the average human!
9. Seeing Double
Here’s another fun chicken fact about their eggs: chicken eggs can have multiple yolks!
The first time they crack an egg to find two yolks inside, most people are understandably startled; however, this is more normal than you think. About one out of every 1,000 eggs will be double-yolked.
Still, it’s a rare enough occurrence that people have assigned a pinch of myth and whimsy to it. Double yolks have been said to be a sign of good luck, an approaching change, or that someone close to you (or you yourself!) is expecting twins.
The scientific explanation for this chicken fact is a bit less fun. Typically, it just means a hen experienced faster than usual ovulation.
And don’t worry–you can still eat them!
10. The Salmonella Myth
This is one chicken fact your mother might be surprised to hear. After all, we spent our entire childhoods being warned against taking bites of raw cookie dough or licking brownie batter off the spoon because of it!
You’ve probably been warned most of your life that consuming raw eggs will lead to salmonella poisoning; however, it’s actually incredibly rare to get salmonella from raw eggs!
It does happen, but only one in 20,000 eggs even contains salmonella, and if these are cooked, it kills the virus. So considering how often we cook eggs before eating, the odds of consuming raw egg infected with salmonella is even lower.
11. The Pecking Order
Did you know that the term “pecking order” comes from chickens?
While you might not consider them to be the most territorial creatures out there, chickens will establish dominance amongst their flockmates.
A chicken’s position in the “pecking order” depends on a few factors, including its breed, size, and which species make up the flock.
Certain chicken breeds are more aggressive than others; these will shoot to the top of the pecking order quickly compared to more docile breeds.
However, if you build your flock with friendlier, calmer breeds, you might notice less dominant behavior.
12. No Sweet Tooth
This chicken fact is one of the sadder ones: chickens aren’t capable of having a sweet tooth. (And not just because they have beaks!)
Chickens can’t taste sweet flavors. So despite their willingness to eat anything, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be enjoying sugar anytime soon.
13. When Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
One chicken fact has eluded our grasp across the ages…why did the chicken cross the road?
We can’t answer for the chicken and its motivations, but we can answer a different question: when did someone first ponder this mystery?
Though it’s difficult to pin down who told this joke first, we do know it became widespread around the mid-1800s.
14. Not Flightless…But Not Long-Distance, Either
Here’s a chicken fact you definitely need to be aware of if you’re going to try your hand at keeping poultry yourself.
Many people think chickens are flightless birds. This actually isn’t the case!
Though they spend most of their time on the ground, chickens are capable of taking flight…for short distances, anyway. The furthest a chicken has ever flown in one burst is about 300 feet.
15. Color Vision
Many animals have varying degrees of color vision. Chickens are one of the creatures that have been proven to be able to see a full spectrum of color; in fact, they can perceive colors that humans can’t!
16. Calming Music = Extra Egg Weight!
Remember how we mentioned letting babies listen to classical music to improve their brain development? Well, here’s another related chicken fact: when allowed to listen to classical music, hens have actually been observed laying bigger and heavier eggs!
It’s theorized that this occurs because the music calms the hens, and stressed hens don’t always lay well.
If you thought nosebleeds were a uniquely human affliction, think again! Chicken beaks can also bleed.
18. A Triple Threat
This chicken fact is a little gross, but fascinating doesn’t always mean palatable!
Like other creatures, such as sharks and camels, chickens have three eyelids to protect their eyes from harm.
Chickens live in conditions with plenty of debris that can quickly become shrapnel. Straw, dust, flecks of wood, and even bits of their feed can go flying at a moment’s notice. This extra bit of protection is absolutely necessary…even if it’s a little weird.
19. The Brown Egg Myth
This chicken fact breaks down another popular myth surrounding chickens and their eggs: brown chicken eggs aren’t actually healthier to eat than white eggs.
There’s no difference between the nutritional value of eggs, whether they’re white, brown, or even blue!
If you take a look at a chicken’s head, you can probably guess that their brains aren’t the largest. You don’t need a list of chicken facts to tell you that.
However, even though a chicken’s brain is only the size of a walnut, we’ve already discussed just how much mileage they get out of it!
Despite its small size, that brain allows chickens to bond with their chicks before birth, recognize faces, remember people, and determine their status in their flock. So while they may not be the smartest birds, they get a lot done with the walnut they’ve been given!
21. The Figments of Fowl
Last but not least, here’s another chicken fact that proves how useful those chicken brains can be: chickens can actually dream when they sleep!
Chickens have been proven to experience REM sleep, just like we do. Of course, there’s no way to guess what they could be dreaming about…maybe crossing the road? Who knows?
Study Up on These Fascinating Fowl!
Now that you’re armed with these useful chicken facts, you can decide if you’re ready to take on the responsibility of raising these complex creatures.
If this has convinced you it’s time to form your own flock, check out our guide to the best backyard chicken breeds to get started!
- About the Author
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Cassidy Eubanks is a proud Michigander, an avid reader, a lover of colorful gardens, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards.
After earning her bachelor’s in Creative Writing (partially through virtual learning, thanks to the pandemic), gardening gave her an excuse to get outside and get away from all the screens. With a particular love for decorating with colorful flowers, using herbs grown in her own garden, and finding creative ways to build big gardens in small spaces, Cassidy enjoys helping others learn about growing their own food, flowers, and trees through Minneopa Orchards!