Apart from producing outstanding eggs and a sumptuous Sunday dinner, there is a lot more to the humble chicken than meets the eye.  Anyone who is lucky enough to be keeping chickens knows that these feathered friends are anything but stupid; some of you may be surprised to know that this seemingly harmless, flightless bird is the closest living relative of the fearsome T-Rex.  There are over 150 different varieties of domestic chickens, and they were first domesticated about 8000 years ago.  Each chicken can have 4 or 5 toes on each foot, and they have more bones in their neck (albeit remarkably little ones) than a giraffe! And they have no teeth, so they consume their food whole and part of their stomach is used to grind the food.


When keeping chickens it is essential that the hens have a private nest, in the wild the hen will dig a hole with her feet, and then pick up twigs and place them on her back, once back at the nest she will let the twigs fall of around the rim.  Chickens make excellent mothers, and they will sit on their eggs and turn then as often as 5 times per hour.  Believe it or not the mother hen will cluck to her chicks while they are still in the shell and the chicks will cluck back before they are even born.  A chicken can live up to a staggering 20 years, and it will continue to produce eggs every year, although the amount reduces year after year.


Chickens are highly social animals, and they will fight fiercely to protect the family, and if a loved one dies they will mourn its passing.  A rooster will attack anything that he thinks will harm the hens, and he has spurs that are located on its hind legs.  These spurs can cause intensely painful punctures.


A chicken is not capable of a long flight, the longest a chicken has been recorded flying is the grand total of 13 seconds, and it can only travel at a very steady 9 miles per hour.


Chickens can lay different colours of eggs depending on the breed.  It has even been known that some chickens will lay multicoloured eggs, but this is extremely rare.  The colour of the first egg will determine the colour of every other egg produced by the hen, and the colours include, white, brown, green, pink and blue.


Keeping chickens is an immensely rewarding experience, and they are anything other than a dumb bird!

John Goose is a specialist poultry breeder and writes about chicken keeping. You can read more advice about keeping chickens and poultry on www.chickenkeepers.co.uk

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