Are chickens intelligent?

Chicken is one of the best animals to keep and raise. Watching a bunch of chickens walking around and enjoying life is mesmerizing. They are also not picky about the food you give them since they can eat almost anything.

Some of the chickens’ behaviors can be good indications that show chickens’ intelligence is capable, but they are often not treated the same as many other indoor pets like cats and dogs. So are chickens smart?

Are chickens intelligent?

Chickens can be quite smart. Their intelligence is comparable or even exceeds that of dogs or cats. They have many behaviors that show they are intelligent to some extent.

It’s easy to see why people often consider chickens unintelligent. They often think that chickens are for getting meat and eggs only. They don’t think their food sources can be smart.

As such, there isn’t much scientific research on chickens’ intelligence. However, once overlooking those thoughts, scientists found the research very compelling.

See more here: chickens’ behavior and intelligence

Why are chickens quite smart?

Chickens are intelligent
Chickens are intelligent


Here are some traits that show chickens are quite smart and expressive in their normal life.

Chickens are curious

Chickens are curious, they notice what is going on in their surroundings to “tell” other chickens about the events, and their signals are surprisingly accurate. This is useful when finding food for the flock, as well as protecting the flock from predators.

Chickens can be manipulative and deceiving

Similar to many animals and even humans, chickens can show some positive social behaviors and manipulative and deceptive acts as well.

An example of deceptive acts is male chickens making food calls to trick female chickens into following them and defending other male chickens.

Inevitably, female chickens will develop counter-strategies to stop following male chickens that call too often when food isn’t around.

This social behavior of tricking and counter-strategies are very similar to the complex behaviors found in many mammals, primates, or even humans.

Chickens can be quick learners

Chickens can learn rather quickly. Their learning speed can be comparable to young humans, specifically 4-year-old children. They can develop and master their abilities and skills that may take a child months to perform the same.

Chickens have the ability to remember numbers up to 5, understanding basic structural engineering, and displaying objects’ permanence like apes.  

Chickens can somewhat count

Chickens can perform simple arithmetic. They can understand the concept of numbers and often show that ability to other animals. When given a stimulus with different amounts of units, they will mostly prefer the one with a larger amount.

Chickens can control themselves and show self-awareness

Chickens can show signs of worry and anticipate their future, which is related to self-awareness. They also show signs of being able to control themselves with the act of waiting for a larger reward when given a small one.

However, the side effect of this ability is that they can be thwarting, show frustration, or pre-emptive anxiety. So they should be managed well to minimize stress.

Chickens can recognize their owners

Chickens can recognize their owners
Chickens can recognize their owners


Chickens have an ability to recognize up to 100 faces, they can also associate the faces they memorized with the good or bad experiences. That means chickens can remember their owners and how they treated them. They can also show affection to their owners.

Chickens like to be petted

Chickens are unique and have their own preferences similar to other animals and humans. Once they are accustomed to human interaction, they enjoy being petted, they even sometimes purr like cats.

The lack of human interaction dinner necessarily means chickens can’t develop this behavior. In some environments that chickens aren’t treated as well like a factory farm, they may still enjoy human interaction. 

Chickens are individuals

Chickens are individuals with unique personalities. As well as the ability to recognize human faces, they can also recognize other chickens in their flock, and differentiate whether the chickens belong to their groups. They can also keep track of the social order in the flock.

Chickens are overprotective

Female chickens are overprotective toward their baby chickens. They act protective when they feel that their baby chickens are threatened based on the chicks’ behaviors and their prior knowledge of threats.

Female chickens also preen less and increase walking and maternal vocalization when they see that baby chickens are in threat, whether the chicks react or not. 

Chickens can show empathy

Chickens can show empathy for other chickens. They have a great on what other chickens feel and experience, and possibly even act the same. Female chickens will feel distressed when their baby chickens experience distress.

Do Chickens Have Memory?

As mentioned above. Chickens can recognize human faces and other chickens in their flock. They have a pretty capable memory. They can remember objects after they are hidden to some extent.

Are chickens similar to dogs and cats as companions?

Chickens are similar to animals that you keep as pets like dogs and cats. They are individuals with unique personalities. They are curious, playful, and can be attached to humans.

People recently realized this and started to keep chickens as pets. But since chickens have different needs from dogs or cats, they may suffer badly if their owners screw up, unintentionally or not.

Read more: Are chickens smarter than dogs?


So, are chickens intelligent? Chickens are quite intelligent. But they are often not treated the same as indoor pets like dogs or cats. They can be just as capable to show some behaviors like humans.

Chickens are inquisitive, they can deceive and develop counter-strategies when being deceived, they are a quick learner that is comparable to a human child, they understand the concept of arithmetic.

Chickens can also recognize humans, other chickens, and some objects when hidden as well. To humans, chickens can show attachment and like to be petted or human interaction in general. They are individuals with unique personalities.


Image credits – Photo by Tom Parandyk, Elia Clerici on