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Chickens changed the world. So why do we eat them

Karin Brulliard: ‘When it comes to humans’ relationship with chickens, … “they are on the bottom of the scale in terms of people recognizing who they are”, says U.S. neuroscientist Lori Marino, who has long researched animal intelligence… But they’re now getting a bit of respect from academics who argue that these fowl have been given short shrift. About two dozen researchers in England, funded by a $3 million grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, are wrapping up a three-year project tracing the arc of human interaction with chickens — animals that project leader Naomi Sykes says “changed the world.” Marino, an expert on dolphins and other species more commonly thought of as smart, recently published a paper on the peer-reviewed scientific literature on chicken cognition, emotion and sociality. Her conclusion is that they’re far from birdbrained, but we’ve given them little chance to prove it. That’s because most studies of chickens reflect their status as commodities and are about egg production or flock management, Marino said. But her review reveals some surprising chicken skills. Five-day-old chicks display basic addition and subtraction abilities. Hens have demonstrated transitive inference, or the ability to deduce that if A is bigger than B and B is bigger than C, then A is bigger than C. That’s considered a milestone for 7-year-old children. Hens do it via their pecking order: Subordinates know that if a dominant hen is successfully challenged by a strange hen, they’d best not approach the stranger’. SOURCE…

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