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True Chicken Facts

In her new book "How to Speak Chicken," Melissa Caughey shares fun and true facts about backyard chickens.
  • How To Speak Chicken

    Melissa Caughey explains why your chickens do what they do and say what they say in her new book, "How to Speak Chicken." After developing a close bond with her backyard chickens and studying them with a scientific eye, Caughey has interpreted chicken interactions and language until understanding nearly every move. 

    "This book is a culmination of my experiences in keeping chickens, which have allowed me to gain insight into their communication, body language, intelligence, social interactions, emotions, and problem-solving abilities," Caughey says. The following facts are true tidbits from her book. 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Top Speed

    "It's hard to outrun a chicken," Caughey says. Chickens can run as fast as 9 mph, while humans average just over 8 mph.

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Egg-cellent Layers

    The average hen lays 265 eggs a year. 

    "While the chicks are still nestled in their eggs, the broody mother talks to them," says Caughey. "I can only imagine she is bonding with them via her quiet coos, clucks, and mutterings. She is their first cheerleader in life." 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Colors Vary

    The Avam Cemani, a rare Indonesian breed, is entirely black, including feathers, skin, and even internal organs! The Silkie is also all black from its skin to its insides. This phenomenon is the result of a genetic condition known as fibromelanosis. 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Lights Out

    Chickens can't see in the dark. They can, however, say goodnight. One winter night, Caughey went out to the coop to lock up the chickens. "I entered the coop and stood for a moment to catch my breath from the wind and chill," she says. "I could hear the chickens calling to one another from the darkness of the roosts with these sweet doh doh doh sounds."

    Caughey was fascinated as she listened to the chickens call out to each other, one by one. "Then I chimed in, mimicking what I was witnessing. To my surprise, they answered back. I realized this is how chickens say goodnight. It is their nighttime ritual."

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Old Relatives

    The chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex. That doesn't mean it's a predator like it's ancestor, however. Chickens' eyes are located on the sides of their heads rather than the front, so they have wide-range vision to detect danger. 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Sweat it Out

    Chickens don't sweat. They regulate body temperature through their combs and wattles. Chickens are hardy birds and can survive in both cold and hot climates.

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Feathers for the Win

    The average chicken has 7,500 to 9,000 feathers, made of keratin, the same protein as in human hair and nails. 

    Chickens like to tend to their feathers like we tend to our hair. "After dust bathing, the chicken coats her feathers with oil to help repel water, keep the feathers clean and prolong the life of each feather," says Caughey. "With her beak, she collects a bit of oil from the uropygial gland that sits above her tail and smooths the oil along her beautiful fluff." 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Special Tongues

    They may not have teeth, but their barbed tongues catch food and move it to the back of throat. Chickens produce saliva, but with few taste buds, they can't taste sweetness. Caughey loves giving her chickens a bowl of cooked spaghetti as a treat. "It's so funny to see two of them squabble over the same noodle while each holding onto an end of it," she says. 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Toe the Line

    Most breeds of chickens have four toes, but some have five. Roosters have claws at the backs of their feet, known as spurs, to protect the flock from danger. 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Chickenhearted

    A chicken's heart beats some 400 times per minute, compared to the human average of 60 to 80.

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018
  • Read the Clues

    You can tell what color egg a hen will lay by looking at the color of her earlobe. Red earlobes usually mean brown eggs. White earlobes mean white eggs. "Hens require a safe place to lay their eggs, proper nutrition, and 14 hours of daylight to stimulate egg production," Caughey says. 

    Date Published: January 31, 2018
    Date Updated: February 6, 2018

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