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Thus, arguably, perceptions of chickens shape their use as commodities which, in turn, then reinforces those original perceptions.
Student perceptions of chicken intelligence were assessed pre- and post-training.
Relative to their initial perceptions of chickens as slow learners, the students’ attitudes shifted to viewing them as intelligent and emotional animals with individual personalities.
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Cognitive differences among species do indeed exist, but the fact that studies of very basic associative processes tend to focus on pigeons () and chickens (two species who are considered quite atypical as birds and not extremely favored), while studies of more complex cognitive processes, including language-like capacities and tool use, involve corvids and parrots, may have so far precluded chickens from demonstrating more complex cognition.
As will be demonstrated in this paper, chicken intelligence appears to have been underestimated and overshadowed by other avian groups.Domestic chickens are members of an order, Aves, which has been the focus of a revolution in our understanding of neuroanatomical, cognitive, and social complexity.At least some birds are now known to be on par with many mammals in terms of their level of intelligence, emotional sophistication, and social interaction.Despite their long history of domestication, domestic chickens remain similar to their wild counterparts despite the recent very intense breeding and genetic manipulation directed toward production traits such as egg laying and growth (Rauw et al. There is no evidence, for instance, that the cognitive or perceptual abilities of domestic chickens have been substantially altered by domestication. This stands in contrast to the case of dogs and wolves, who, of course, share a number of characteristics with each other but, because dogs were selected as companions, are also distinctly different on several key cognitive and behavioral dimensions (Udell et al. The implications for differential welfare for dogs versus chickens (and other farmed animals) in a “domesticated” setting are evident.It is interesting to note that most animals domesticated for food, such as pigs and chickens, are behaviorally and cognitively quite similar to their ancestors and wild counterparts as they are mainly selected on physical characteristics like rate of growth, fecundity, percentage of body fat, etc. Social groups of jungle fowl and wild or free-ranging domestic chickens usually consist of one dominant male and one dominant female, subordinates of both sexes, and chicks, all occupying a home range during the breeding season (Appleby et al. Interestingly, despite the fact that domestication tends to make most animals less aggressive toward potential predators, some breeds of domestic chickens are more aggressive than jungle fowl (Väisänen et al.In particular, the avian forebrain (the part of the brain involved in problem-solving and other higher-order cognitive capacities) is actually derived from the same neuroanatomical substrate as the mammalian forebrain, providing more potential evidence for similar cognitive capacities in the two groups (Jarvis et al. In this paper, I review the evidence from peer-reviewed applied and basic comparative studies of chicken cognition, emotion, and sociality.I place a special focus on more complex capacities which appear to be at the leading edge of intelligence in birds and other animals and only review some of the more fundamental perceptual and cognitive abilities in order to understand the mechanisms underlying these more complex capacities.Interestingly, even pre-training, most students agreed that chickens could feel hunger, pain, and fear, but were less likely to believe chickens could feel more complex emotions, such as boredom, frustration, and happiness.However, boredom, frustration, and happiness were the emotional states with the greatest shifts in student attitudes post-training (Hazel et al. The scientific literature on chicken cognition and behavior is relatively sparse in many areas, and dominated by applied themes, artificial settings, and methodologies relating to their “management” as a food source.This asymmetry in the literature is likely a reflection of, as well as a contributor to, the disconnect scientists and the public have between chickens as commodities and who they actually are as individuals.But chickens have much in common with other avian species.