With the popularity of raising chickens on the rise, so too are the number of questions people have about these farmyard critters. These 12 little-known backyard chicken facts will help you to go from clueless to chicken expert in no time!
12 Backyard Chicken Facts You Might Not Have Known
1. Chickens Get Dirty to Get Clean
In order to protect themselves from mites and clean their feathers, chickens take dust baths. They’ll loosen up a patch of soil forming a pit, then they jump in and roll around, fluffing up their feathers and shaking about. Once they’ve had enough, they hop out of the pit, and shake off every bit of soil, resulting in a giant cloud of dirt and dust.
2. Chickens Don’t Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs
Hens lay eggs even when they don’t live with a rooster. This is the most mis-understood of all chicken facts. Hens go through the process of ovulation and egg-laying almost every day, whether they’re mating or not. When there’s no rooster, hens lay unfertilized eggs daily. The rooster is only necessary for the hen to produce fertilized eggs, which will produce chicks when they’re incubated.
3. Chickens Naturally Lay Eggs in Different Colors
This is perhaps the most bizarre of our chicken facts… the color of chicken eggs depends on the breed of chicken that laid it. Egg color does not determine nutritional value or how ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ an egg may be. Some chickens, called Americana or Araucana lay ‘Easter eggs’ in blue and green shades. Dark brown eggs are usually laid by Black Copper Marans. The large white eggs you usually find in a grocery store are normally laid by White Leghorns.
4. Chickens Have One Hole… and EVERYTHING Comes Out of It
Chickens have my vote for grossest anatomy of any creature. Many people don’t know that the eggs you eat come out of something called a cloaca or vent. This opening serves not only as a chicken vagina, but urine and feces come out of it too. It’s a real multifunctional orifice.
5. They Chew Their Food With a Gizzard
Speaking of gross anatomy… chickens also use something called a gizzard to chew their food. They obviously don’t have teeth, so they swallow their food whole, where it’s stored in the crop. The birds swallow small bits of sand and stone, called grit, that act like teeth in the gizzard to grind the food up into tiny bits. Just imagine how horrifying humans would be if we processed our food in the same way!
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6. Chickens are Related to Dinosaurs
Chickens are the closest known descendants to the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Keeping them in our backyard is very much like having a bunch of tiny dinos take over your property. You can see the resemblance in a very scary way when they run at full speed. Imagine the part of Jurassic Park with the T-Rex chasing the jeep, except scaled down about 500 percent.
7. Chickens are Omnivores
Most people who don’t raise chickens think they’re vegetarians. In fact, they’ll eat practically anything. I mean, anything. The only thing I ever saw them ignore was an artichoke, and I think that’s because they didn’t know the glory of the insides. We call them ‘our little food recyclers.’
Chickens love vegetables and fruit, but they’ll also eat meat, dairy, and will even eat their own eggs, including the shell if one happens to break in their midst. In the wild chickens eat insects and small rodents just as often as they eat plants.
8. Scary Chicken Facts: The Dinos Outnumber Us
Chickens outnumber humans three to one on this planet. Now, let’s be veeeeerrryyy nice to our bird friends so one day when they manage to form superior intelligence and take over the world, they will spare the groveling humans.
9. Chickens Have Their Own Language
Chickens can make almost 30 different sounds and each bird and flock has its own tone. Different sounds can mean: There’s a predator in the air! There’s a predator on the ground! I found something delicious over here! I just laid an egg! Get the hell out of my nest! Oh my god, I’m lost, I’M LOST, I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM!!! Researchers have noted them making different sounds when “talking” to humans than they make to fellow chickens.
10. They Sing ‘The Egg Song’
Many hens make a big ol’ racket every day when they announce to the world that they are indeed going inside to lay an egg, or have just laid an egg. This is called ‘the egg song’ and once you’ve heard it a few times it’s very recognizable, even from afar.
11. Roosters Care for their Harem of Hens
Most roosters are downright gentlemanly creatures. When new food is served they make a lovely ‘took took took’ sound to call their harem of hens over. Ever a believer in ‘ladies first,’ the rooster waits until everyone is eating before taking a bite. Good roosters also spend the vast majority of their time protecting the flock. They constantly scan the land and sky for predators while the ladies gossip and stuff their faces.
12. They Have a Hierarchy or “Pecking Order” in the Flock
Chickens have a hierarchy of bossiness, a pecking order, if you will. This term was actually coined to describe flock behavior. Every flock has a bird at the top and a bird at the bottom, and every other chicken fits into the ladder in some specific place. The order is established during mating season, times of stress, and addition or loss of birds.
Chickens challenge newcomers by sprinting up to their face and staring them down. If the newcomer stares back, the chest bumping begins, which then escalates to scratching and squawking. Whichever bird gives up first is lower on the ladder. Lower birds get pecked if they dare to approach the food before the head hen has graced the feeder. The bird on the bottom is the last to eat. She’s forced to scurry around the chowing flock, grabbing bits of grub wherever she can. She gets the worst places to sleep at night, and generally only associates with the other lowly chickens.
We hope you’ve enjoyed increasing your chicken knowledge with our 12 little known backyard chicken facts! Now you can impress your friends and loved ones with all your new-found knowledge!
What other fun chicken facts do you have to share? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!