WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The chicken isn't as dull or dumb as most people think, according to Lori Marino, senior scientist for the Someone Project -- a research effort focused on the psychology, behavior and emotions of domestic farm animals.
The chicken, Marino argues in a new study, published this week in the journal Animal Cognition, is more intelligent and complex than the species typically gets credit for.
"They are perceived as lacking most of the psychological characteristics we recognize in other intelligent animals and are typically thought of as possessing a low level of intelligence compared with other animals," Marino said in a news release. "The very idea of chicken psychology is strange to most people."
A survey of the scientific literature turned up a number of surprising findings related to the chicken's mental and emotional capacities.
Five-day-old chicks can differentiate between lesser and greater quantities. Chickens can track the trajectory of a disappearing ball, an ability on par with primates. Relatedly, they perceive periods of time and anticipate the future.
Chickens also show signs of self awareness, and an understanding of their place in the social pecking order. They also exhibits self restraint, holding out for a greater food reward.
Studies have also shown chickens to have distinct personalities, and express a variety of emotions, including fear, anxiety and base levels of empathy.
"A shift in how we ask questions about chicken psychology and behavior will, undoubtedly, lead to even more accurate and richer data and a more authentic understanding of who they really are," added Marino.