Do your chickens recognize Fido?
Have you ever noticed that your chickens are fine around the family pets, but when a new dog or cat comes around they act a little skittish? That’s because chickens have full-color vision and can recognize around 100 different faces, including our family pets. In fact, along with the same color vision that humans have, chickens are tetrachromatic, which means they also have the ability to see ultraviolet light! This helps them find shiny objects like berries, seeds, and bugs and allows a mother hen to detect which of her chicks is the healthiest since healthy, growing feathers reflect ultraviolet light.
Do you really want to put a disco ball in the coop?
Since their eyes are so sensitive, chickens can see tiny light fluctuations in fluorescent lighting that are undetectable to humans. This can appear like a strobe light to chickens which is very annoying to the flock and can lead to pecking and bullying behavior. This is something to consider if you’re thinking about adding artificial lighting to the coop in the winter months to trick the chickens into laying.
Another interesting fact is that chickens’ eyes are about 10% the mass of their head, versus a humans’ eyes at 1%. They have an additional double-cone structure which helps them sense motion more easily to watch for predators and keep track of each other. Because their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they have a 300-degree field of vision compared to humans at 180-degrees. Chickens have a third eyelid called the nictating membrane that slides horizontally across their eyes to protect them from dust and debris. The membrane is transparent, so when a chicken takes a dirt bath or when they are sleeping, you will see the nictitating membrane appear.
I see you Mr. Worm, and you too, Mr. Hawk!
If this wasn’t enough, chickens have mono-vision and the ability to use each eye independently on different tasks simultaneously. Just before hatching, a chick turns in the egg shell so the right absorbs light and the left eye is covered by its body. As a result, the right eye develops nearsightedness which enables the chicken to search for food while the left eye develops farsightedness to detect predators. That’s why you’ll notice chickens tilting their head with their left eye to the sky when a hawk is soaring overhead!
Chickens can sense the presence or absence of light through the pineal gland in their brains. Even a totally blind chicken can still sense daylight as well as the changing seasons using the pineal gland. However, chickens have terrible night vision since they evolved after the dinosaur age and didn’t spend millions of years as nocturnal animals.
So, after these fun facts, we hope you can clearly see why our chicken friends are so amazing!