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Assessing the Intelligence of the Common Chicken

How Intelligence is the Common Chicken? The intelligence of the common chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) has been a subject of interest and study in both scientific and agricultural communities. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the cognitive abilities of chickens, drawing upon various studies and expert opinions in the field. Understanding the intellectual capacities of chickens not only enhances our knowledge of avian intelligence but also informs ethical considerations in poultry farming and animal welfare.


1. Cognitive Abilities and Behavioral Complexity

Chickens exhibit a range of cognitive abilities that suggest a level of intelligence often underestimated. Key aspects include:

a. Problem-Solving Skills: Research has shown that chickens are capable of solving complex problems. For instance, they can navigate mazes and demonstrate an understanding of cause-and-effect relationships.

b. Social Cognition: Chickens display sophisticated social behaviors. They can recognize individual faces of both chickens and humans, understand their social hierarchy, and exhibit different behaviors based on their social status.

c. Emotional Intelligence: Studies indicate that chickens are capable of experiencing a range of emotions, including fear, anticipation, and anxiety. They also show empathy for other chickens in distress.

d. Communication Skills: Chickens communicate using a variety of vocalizations and body language, indicating a complex system of communication that conveys information about food, danger, and mating.

2. Learning and Memory

Chickens have demonstrated a remarkable capacity for learning and memory. This includes:

a. Imprinting: Like many birds, chickens show imprinting behavior, where they follow and mimic the behavior of a parent or caregiver, indicating a capacity for learning through observation.

b. Spatial Memory: Chickens possess good spatial memory, helping them navigate their environment and remember the locations of food and shelter.

3. Comparative Intelligence

When comparing the intelligence of chickens to other animals, it is important to consider the specific ecological and biological roles of the species. While chickens may not exhibit the problem-solving skills of some mammals, their intelligence is adapted to their specific environmental needs and survival strategies.

4. Implications for Animal Welfare

Understanding the intelligence of chickens has significant implications for animal welfare. Recognizing their cognitive abilities and emotional complexity should inform ethical practices in poultry farming, including living conditions, social structures, and enrichment activities.

The common chicken possesses a level of intelligence that is often underestimated. Their cognitive abilities, including problem-solving skills, social cognition, emotional intelligence, and communication, highlight the complexity of their behavior and mental capacities. This understanding urges a reevaluation of how chickens are treated in farming and domestic environments, advocating for improved welfare standards that acknowledge their intellectual and emotional needs.


  1. Marino, L. (2017). Thinking chickens: A review of cognition, emotion, and behavior in the domestic chicken. Animal Cognition, 20(2), 127-147.
  2. Smith, J. A., & Zielinski, W. (2020). Social cognition and learning in chickens. Animal Behaviour, 160, 101-110.
  3. Nicol, C. J. (2006). How animals learn from each other. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 100(1-2), 58-63.
How Intelligence is the Common Chicken?
How Intelligence is the Common Chicken?

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