Ten years ago, I fell in love with painting chickens. I don't know where the urge came from, but when it hit, it hit hard. This led of course, to looking at chickens a lot – or should I say, trying to look at them, as they never seemed to stay still for very long. I became fascinated by chickens and over time I've learned some fancy facts about our feathery friends.
Did you know, for example, that chickens are the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex? It's true. And just as the T Rex was one of the smarter dinosaurs, chickens are pretty smart themselves. They have good memories and can recognize up to a hundred different faces. They even have their own “language.” They can make about thirty different sounds that indicate things such as the direction from which a predator is approaching. They actually begin communicating with their chicks before the chicks are hatched. Mother hens talk to their eggs with a purring sound, and the chicks peep back from inside the shells. Hens also teach their chicks what is good to eat and what is not and tests have shown that hens will warn their chicks away from grain that is bad for them. Scientists have even discovered that Mother hens show empathy for their chicks.
Chickens have full color vision (compared to other animals like cats and dogs which are color blind.) They also experience REM sleep, which is the state the brain is in when it dreams.
A single hen can lay up to 300 eggs a year and they will lay fewer but larger eggs is they grow older. while sitting on their eggs, hens turn their eggs about 50 times a day. Different breeds of chickens lay different colored eggs, hence the reason why a dozen fresh eggs from a local henhouse may offer up a variety of colors. Interestingly, brown shells are only brown on the outside while blue are blue on both sides. The nutritional value of an egg is the same no matter what color the shell is. Inside, an egg is an egg is an egg. Full of protein! Chickens themselves love feasting on bugs and grass – they slurp down grass the way we slurp down spaghetti.
Next time you're sitting down to a plate of eggs at breakfast, take a moment to marvel at the marvelous creature that brought you your breakfast. And by the way, here's my first chicken painting from years ago.....