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Happy International Respect for Chickens Day! (part 2)

In 2005, the fine folks at United Poultry Concerns declared 4 May 'International Respect for Chickens Day'. It's been 16 years now, and every year, people have celebrated the wonder of chickens by speaking out on their behalf. A few days ago, we posted the first part of a list of 8 amazing chicken facts. Here is part two!

5. Chickens feel empathy--and we've proved it. A study carried out in 2011 at the University of Bristol showed that when chicks were exposed to “a puff of air” in front of their mothers:

…the hens’ heart rate increased and eye temperature decreased. The hens also changed their behaviour, and reacted with increased alertness, decreased preening and increased vocalisations directed to their chicks. (The foundations of empathy are found in the chicken)
Red and black rooster standing over white hen with little yellow chick peering out from beneath her wing.]
Lincoln, Sno-Pea & baby Luv-Bug (Photo: United Poultry Concerns)

6. Chickens love bathing–not in water, but dust!

For chickens, dustbathing is not only a cleansing activity; it is also a social gathering. Typically, one hen begins the process and is quickly joined by other hens and maybe one or two roosters. Soon the birds are buried so deep in their dustbowls that only the moving tail of a rooster or an outspread wing can be seen a few feet away. Eventually, one by one, the little flock emerges from their ritual entrancement all refreshed. Each bird stands up, vigorously shakes the dirt particles out of his or her feathers, creating a fierce little dust storm before running off to the next engaging activity. (The Social Life of Chickens)

Check out this absolutely adorable video of rescued egg-laying hens who had never seen the sun in their lives enjoying their very first dustbaths at Animal Place Sanctuary in California:

7. Chickens can be great companions to humans--and other animals too.

“People who know chickens as friends know that chickens are not ‘all alike.’ They know that, like all species with certain traits in common, chickens have individual personalities, distinctive identities, and unique ways of expressing themselves.” -Karen Davis

Camus the rooster runs to greet his human rescuer every day!

Here are links to just a few stories of chicken friendship:

  • Penny: 'If I call her name, she comes running. If I’m working in the yard, she’s right there next to me...Every evening before the sun sets, Penny comes around to the front of the house and starts clucking to let me know she’s ready to come inside. She will sit next to me on the couch while I work on my laptop or watch TV. When I go to bed she follows.'

  • Chookie: 'I take her most places including the beach – she loves to sunbathe on the beach and also explore and peck at sea shells. I sometimes take her down to the store on my shoulder so she can meet people and sometimes we have ice-cream dates. She loves the attention and sometimes she clucks back when people talk to her.’

  • Fanny: 'Fanny expected to be greeted whenever we saw her, just like any friend who would feel snubbed if ignored. Miriam and pattrice did say "hello" to Fanny, every morning and several times each day before saying "goodnight" every night.'

  • Sammie the hen and Arnold the blind pig: 'They hang out together and even sleep together. They are best friends.'

  • Muffie '...she began sweetly perching on the sofa arm where I sat reading or watching television. Chickens are naturally sociable, and will gather around a human companion and stand there serenely preening themselves or sit quietly on the ground beside someone they trust. Muffie not only did these things, but she also enjoyed being cuddled and held, the way some chickens do.'

Sculpture of a carnivorous dinosaur eating a small dinosaur.
The chicken's great-great-great-[...]-great-great grandma?

8. Like other birds, chickens are the only surviving dinosaurs. (Contrary to what we once believed, they didn't all go extinct!) But it appears that there may be a more direct link specifically between chickens and Tyrannosaurus Rex, though the findings are speculative and apparently under debate in the scientific community:

“The analysis shows that T-rex collagen makeup is almost identical to that of a modern chicken – this corroborates a huge body of evidence from the fossil record that demonstrates birds are descended from meat-eating dinosaurs,” said Angela Milner, the associate keeper of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in London. (T-Rex’s closest relative found on farm)

It may not be the 4th anymore, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do an action for chickens! In our last blog post, we suggested some ways to observe the big day:

Of course we are still under partial lockdown in the UK, so activism opportunities are more limited than they might usually be--but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of options. Take a moment to talk to your friends and family. Write a letter to the editor. Door drop some leaflets or if it's safe to do so in your area, do some outreach. And be sure to check out our blog post of loads of lockdown-friendly activism tips! Remind everyone that chickens are brave, smart, and sociable animals who protect their friends and love their babies just like we do.

For more ideas of how to honour chickens, check out United Poultry Concerns here.

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