Some Cool things about Chickens

I was asked last week if I could give a tour to some grade school students from the big city to show them where eggs come from (Sobey’s is about as far as most of em get).  I was contacted third-party, and was given the teacher’s address and waited for her to contact me with details.  I had no idea what age group, or what the teacher had in mind as goals for the tour, but since I was working in a chicken barn for a couple of hours, I started thinking about what to tell the kids when they came.  Unfortunately, the tour got postponed, but my ideas are still valid, so I am going to impose them on you…..imagine you are in grade 7… are in a chicken barn for the first time ever, and this super-cool, engaging, professional guy is telling you interesting stuff about chickens….. (if the guy was ACTUALLY super-cool, would he use the term “super-cool”? ….nevermind);

You all know that chickens are different from mammals….but do you know how, or why?

The biggest difference between birds and mammals is that birds fly.  Most of the major differences between birds and mammals are changes that enable birds to fly…….Yes Johnny?  I know bats fly too….don’t worry about it…..that is just an exception.

Chickens have no teeth.  Enamel is very dense and heavy, so not developing them lightens the birds so they can fly more easily.

Chickens lay eggs instead of carrying their young inside them.  Can you imagine a pregnant bird trying to fly?

Chickens have hollow bones, which reduces body weight, which makes them better able to fly.  — Yes Johnny?  I know penguins don’t have hollow bones….they don’t fly either….they have “de-evolved” hollow bones

Chickens have a gut-passage time of 2 hours.  That means that a piece of chicken feed turns into a piece of chicken manure in 2 hours.  This means that the birds digest food and get the nutrients out very quickly….making them carry less weight inside them.

Feathers keep birds warmer than hair does.  This allows birds to have less body fat, and thus less weight.  No Johnny…..skinny cats cannot fly…..

Birds have red blood cells with nuclei in them.  This makes it more efficient for birds to make red blood cells, and so more of the blood is made up of red blood cells, allowing the blood to carry more oxygen than mammals….this is really useful for long flights, since birds don’t get tired easily.

Birds have one way airflow through their lungs…..they don’t inhale, then push the used air out back out, over the lung tissues and back up the windpipe….they have structures called air-sacs…..the air comes in through the windpipe, over the lungs, then into the air-sacs, then out of the windpipe on the NEXT exhalation.  This means that only fresh, oxygen rich air ever touches the lungs.  This makes the lungs more efficient, and gives the bird more energy, which makes them better able to fly long distances.  No, Johnny…..chickens don’t really fly well….but they have all these characteristics because most birds fly a lot.

When chickens relax, their feet close tightly.  This is how they can sleep on perches.  Chickens actually have to actively let go with their feet.  You’re right Johnny…that has nothing to do with flying…..

Chickens can see ultraviolet light, as well as all the visible light we can see.  They see colours that we can’t even imagine.

Chickens have almost no taste buds…..humans have over 10,000 taste buds, while chickens have 20-30 taste buds.  Sigh, Yes Johnny….this also has nothing to do with flying……

Chickens only recognize friends once they get within 24 inches of each other.

Chickens recognize each other by way of facial characteristics.  YES Johnny…..I KNOW you recognize your friends by their faces too…..

You know….maybe it’s not a tragedy that the tour got postponed…..maybe Johnny will be sick on the alternate day….

Mike the Chicken Vet


17 responses to “Some Cool things about Chickens

  1. Super-cool information, Mike. I wish I learned this when I was a boy… I would have been interested in chicken keeping at a much younger age.

  2. Fascinating! Thanks for all the great info!
    There’s a Johnny in every crowd, isn’t there?

  3. Hi Mike,

    Matt and I are in Malaysia for a march break trip, and when we went to the market we saw them selling eggs.

    Just wanted to let you know because I think it relates to the post you put out a couple weeks ago, on where eggs come from.

    They had the eggs outside in the market in baskets in 35 degree weather. We would never see this back home. It is a totally different culture.

    Very interesting!

    Maybe we will see the red jungle fowl!

    Great post,


    • Cool, Andrew!

      Have you eaten any eggs there? What color are the yolks? Do they taste any different? Different areas of the world will have strikingly different yolk colors, depending on what they feed their birds, and different sources of fats in the hens’ diets will cause the eggs to taste different. I hope you and Matt enjoy your trip!


  4. Great post!! Oh Johnny!! *shaking my head*

  5. idont really know but my chickens seem 2 like music

    • I don’t doubt it. Many professional farmers have sound systems in their barns, and the birds tend to be calmer and more relaxed when music is played at a low level.

  6. Get ’em really going and show them green eggs and ham….. 😆

    • Hi TikkTok;

      Thanks for visiting. I was wondering how you stumbled across my blog? My hits went way up yesterday, and I’m having trouble finding the source of my new traffic. Just curious…….

      • One of my many chicken pages on FB shared the link and I hopped over. 🙂

        Here’s a question for you- I live in an area where meatie and laying farms are very common. I know there are chicken vets out here- do you ever do non-commercial vetting?

        I am looking at a move in the next year, and I’m wondering if it’s possible to move my flock. If I decide to risk it, I know I’ll need testing to cross state lines. Any thoughts on how likely a commercial vet would be to come and do the required testing? Thanks! 😀

      • Hi TikkTok;

        I do very little work on noncommercial birds for several reasons (I am doing a blog post about this soon). The post will answer most of your questions…..if I miss anything, let me know and I will respond to specifics.


  7. I found a link to this on A Speckled Hen. Veddy interesting!!

  8. Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook linked to this page. Cool info. 🙂

  9. I own chickens… but great info … Find more info send it our way 🙂

  10. With the way their eyes are placed, how do chickens actually see the world?

    • Hi Cheryl;

      With respect to eye placement, if you look closely, you’ll notice that their eyes are spaced wide on their skull, high up, and they bug out a little. This means that they have a HUGE range of vision, and can see over 300 degrees of a circle. They also see above them very well. That explains why they “spook” so quickly from anything above them and how they avoid things like hawks and owls. It also explains why they are so jumpy, since their peripheral vision is so extensive. They are a bit like horses that way.

      Birds also have very good binocular vision and depth perception in front of them.

      Hope that helps


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s