Chicken Chatter Deciphered

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Chicken chatter deciphered, as described in the Daily Telegraph Online 16 Nov 2006. Chris and Linda Evans have investigated how much information is contained in hens' calls. It has always been assumed that hens are only able to communicate at a very primitive level, and the sounds they make when they find food are just meaningless exclamations. However, they can make over 20 different calls, which have separate meanings. For example, a hen that finds food makes a repetitive high pitched call that other birds recognise as "here is food" and will look for food themselves. The birds can also give some indication of the quality of the food, e.g. producing sounds at a higher rate for a more desirable type of food. Recent research has found that chickens are not nearly as stupid as most people assume. They live in stable social groups, can recognise each other by facial features, and seem to be able to understand that if an object they recognise is taken away and hidden, it has not ceased to exist.

Editorial Comment: Birds were generally thought to be stupid or to behave by instinct because they have small brains, hence the term "bird brain". However, recent research into many bird species indicates they are capable of quite complex learning, and their brains are not deficient, but are wired differently to mammals. They are only stupid if they are not given an opportunity to learn from other birds. This should not be a surprise as scientist have known for many years that birds have many other features that are distinctively different to mammals and reptiles, e.g. their breathing system. This fits perfectly with Genesis 1 story of the 5th day of creation when God created birds as separate and fully formed creatures.

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