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…..you 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