When my adorable niece was just a toddler, I was blown away by her intellectual capabilities. When she mastered a new concept, such as spatial reasoning, enough to match a shaped block to a corresponding hole on a toy, a silence filled the room and jaws hit the floor. She was so smart, and we were thrilled to watch her develop.
Yet as smart as she was, it turns out she may have been no match for a chicken.
According to a recent study — aptly titled “The Intelligent Hen” — conducted by Bristol University professor Christine Nicol, hens are capable of mathematical reasoning and logic, numeracy, the ability to plan ahead, self-control, transitive inference (if A>B and B>C, then A>C), and basic structural engineering. Oh, and hens can exhibit self-control—a skill which I rarely hear used by a parent to describe their 2-year-old. Baby chicks even learn object permanence, the idea that an object out of sight still exists, earlier than human babies.
Of course, chickens are far from being the only farmed animals with advanced mental skills. Fish can use tools to hunt, turkeys remember the geographic content of over 1,000 acres, and pigs can learn how to operate computers! With so many studies highlighting their amazing mental capabilities, the animals we often treat as mere meat-, milk-, and egg-producing machines are incredibly bright, and can obviously process and feel pain, loneliness, and despair when the routine cruelties of factory farming are inflicted upon them.
Want to help protect these intelligent feathered friends and other farmed animals? Order our Ask Me Why I’m Vegetarian t-shirt and a free TryVeg.com bumper sticker today–and now when someone asks you why you’re veg, you can take a crack at explaining the impressive intelligence of chickens.