10 Surprising Facts About Chickens

More chickens are raised and killed for food than all other land animals combined. McDonald’s alone kills hundreds of millions of chickens each year for its U.S. restaurants. But if more people knew that chickens are complex creatures who feel pain and distress, they might think twice before eating another nugget.

Here are 10 surprising facts about chickens:

Well-intentioned consumers are being duped by pictures of hens in open green fields into taking home the very products of crowding and misery that they paid higher prices to avoid.

1. Chickens can distinguish between more than 100 faces of their own species. Looks like elephants aren’t the only ones who have a great memory.

Flock of Chickens

2. Chickens know who’s boss—they form complex social structures known as “pecking orders,” and every chicken knows his or her place on the social ladder.

Chickens and Rooster Flock in Grassy Field

3. Chickens have full-color vision—no color-blindness here!

Red chicken in a cage

4. Who likes to sunbathe? Apparently everyone—humans, cats, dogs, and chickens too! You can’t blame them, and they don’t even need sunscreen.

Chicken Sunbathing in Grassy Field

5. Chickens are real sleeping beauties—they experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which means they dream just like we do.

Chicks Falling Asleep

6. Chickens have pain receptors that give them the ability to feel pain and distress. Put yourself in the shoes (or the feathers) of a battery hen—or 452 million of them, which is how many are used for their eggs each year.

7. Hens defend their young from predators. Looks like calling someone a “chicken” is actually a compliment!

help chickens used for food

8. Who needs pepper spray? Chickens have more than 30 types of vocalizations to distinguish between threats.

9. Chickens are just like human mothers who talk to their babies in the womb—a mother hen begins to teach calls to her chicks before they even hatch.

Baby Chicks in Grass

10. Last but not least, chickens are adorable—take a look for yourself!

Baby Chick in Grass

Feeling inspired? Learn more fascinating facts and read more inspiring stories about chickens and other animals in the bestselling book Animalkind.

Help us spread the word about how interesting chickens are by sharing with your family and friends on Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t already, be sure to join our Action Team to find out how to do more for chickens (and for all animals!).

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind