Chickens get a bad rap. They run around with their heads cut off, they “chicken out” of things, and they cross the road for numerous unfunny reasons.
But apparently we’ve been underestimating their intelligence all along, and one Honolulu Zoo keeper set out to prove it.
“Chickens are so underrated because everybody thinks chickens can’t learn anything,” Miki Nagatoshi told KITV. “All they’re good for is, ya know, to eat and lay eggs. But, we’re here to prove them wrong.”
Using positive reinforcement techniques, Nagatoshi trained Hawk, an eager-to-learn hen, how to ring a bell, jump through a hoop, recognize colors, and even play the piano. She’ll reportedly perform “Happy Birthday” to children who celebrate their birthdays at the Honolulu Zoo.
Although the phrase “birdbrain” would suggest otherwise, birds are consistently recognized for their surprising intellect. This crow, for instance, can solve a complex, multi-step puzzle. The Scientific American recently suggested that chickens might be at the high end of the bird intelligence spectrum, arguing that their comprehensive abilities merit better treatment on factory farms.
Researchers, it says, “have learned that [the chicken] can be deceptive and cunning, that it possesses communication skills on par with those of some primates and that it uses sophisticated signals to convey its intentions. When making decisions, the chicken takes into account its own prior experience and knowledge surrounding the situation. It can solve complex problems and empathizes with individuals that are in danger.”
But, before we get too ahead of ourselves, Dr. Christine Nicol, Bristol University professor and author of review paper “The Intelligent Hen,” reminds us that, “no chicken has yet written a review of human intelligence.”