Saturday, July 30, 2011

The intellectual capacity of chickens

Chickens have very intellectual capacities. Right now, our three chooks are out in the garden, sorting and scratching, digging and delving, furrowing and ferreting for ideas. What they generally find are worms, not ideas, but this suits them pretty well. Worms usually do taste better than ideas, unless the idea in question is pink and wriggling and eats dirt. This, however, is not the kind of idea that you generally find in orthodox publications of the sciences or humanities.

Chickens have been, quite unfairly, maligned by some people as being mindless. This is not true: chickens are extremely thoughtful, some might even say philosophical. Barely a moment goes by when they are not pondering and puzzling over the most obvious questions. Actually they have no time to get on to the more complicated questions as they put so much energy into the obvious ones. Should I eat this? Can I eat that? What is there to eat? These are the grand cerebral conundra that perplex the cogitations of your average backyard chicken as it makes its way through the empyrean on its humble question for knowledge. The answer to all these questions is, of course, yes, and the chicken sets out to find this out in an empirical fashion, pecking away at the problem with its beak. Eventually the problem disappears, although the chicken may not feel quite satisfied that it has found the answer yet, so it will set about at another problem straightaway. It is probably a good thing no chicken has as yet decided to unriddle the enigmas of Einsteinian relativity, as there is no telling what a little pecking could do to them.

The basic phoneme of discourse amongst chickens is the cluck. Actually it is the only unit of discourse amongst chickens, pretty much, so as you can imagine they work hard on each of their clucks, so that they end up with a wide variety suitable for all situations and walks of life. There are at least two:

THE CURIOUS CLUCK: Uttered by a chicken in the garden as they contemplate whether they should eat something.

THE FURTIVE CLUCK: Same as a curious cluck, except coming from the kitchen as the chicken contemplates what they should eat first.

Diligent scholars of the chicken-mind should take any and every opportunity of scrutinising your average chicken (don't worry, they're all pretty average) as it meditates its way hither and reasons its way thither. It is an instructive and edifying experience to see the chicken-mind at work, and indeed, as they think about this and that you can virtually script their thoughts.
Two chickens stand in front of an open door. They look at each other. They look at the door. They utter several curious clucks.

FIRST CHICKEN: (Thinks) That open! In go?

SECOND CHICKEN: (Thinks) That open! In go?

FIRST CHICKEN: (Going in) Can I eat this? (Utters furtive cluck)

SECOND CHICKEN: (Going in) What should I eat? (Utters furtive cluck)

A PERSON moves in the way of the chickens as they are coming in. The chickens look at one another in panic.

FIRST CHICKEN: (Thinks) Big thing in way! What do?

SECOND CHICKEN: (Thinks) Can I eat this? (Pecks at human foot experimentally)

PERSON: (Jiggles foot about to get chickens to move out)

FIRST CHICKEN: (Thinks) I eat concrete slab out instead? (Curious cluck)

SECOND CHICKEN: (Thinks) Yum, concrete slab. (Both move outside)

PERSON, who has meanwhile been uttering all kinds of different incomprehensible words closes the door and retires inside so it can utter incomprehensible words in peace.
Here is a picture the Baron took a little while ago of two of our chickens searching for the reason to life, the universe, and everything. What they have found is a piano instead, which is not very worm like at all. So I guess they're a little disappointed.

Although, of course, you can never tell with chickens. There's always something they're not telling you.


Griselda said...

Book book book book.

Ann O'Dyne said...


I LOVE chickens. Please be mindful that there are many foxes in Melbourne, and make sure your girls are safely under overhead netting.
Laura at Sills Bend had a triple tragedy that I am not over yet.

TimT said...

Book book, Griselda, book book.

Ann O, you are right, and the foxes are a worry. We have a safely netted pen for them, and a coop for them at night. We let them mostly roam free in the garden during the day, but we try to keep a close eye on them.

Email: timhtrain - at -

eXTReMe Tracker

Blog Archive