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Are Chicks Brighter Than Babies? - NYTimes.com


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Hens are social animals, preferring the companionship of those they know to strangers. They recover more quickly from stress when they are with an acquaintance.

Their brains are good at multitasking, for the right eye looks out for food, while the left watches for predators and potential mates. Poultry watch television, and, in one experiment, learned from watching birds on TV how to find food in particular bowls.

Look, farmbirds are not Einsteins. But evidence is mounting that they’re smarter than we have assumed, and just because they don’t have big brown eyes doesn’t mean that they should be condemned to spend their lives jammed into tiny cages in stinking, fetid barns, with bodies of dead birds sometimes left rotting beside live ones.

I don’t know myself where to draw the lines. I eat meat, so this entire column may be braised in hypocrisy. But just as we try to protect dogs and cats from undue suffering, without necessarily considering them our equals, it makes sense to minimize animal suffering more broadly when we can. So even when there are no salmonella outbreaks, there are good reasons to keep away from wretched birds raised in factory farms.

He's struggling with something a lot of people believe: that factory farms are bad.

A lengthy study this year from the University of Bristol in Britain, “The Intelligent Hen,” lays out the evidence for the chicken as an intellectual. The study also notes that hens are willing to delay gratification if the reward is right.

Researchers in one study gave hens the option of two keys, one of which would wait two seconds and then give the hen three seconds of food, and the other would force a wait of six seconds but offer 22 seconds of food. After learning that trade-off, 93 percent of hens preferred the delay with more food.

Chickens communicate with different calls to warn about ground predators and birds of prey. Still other calls signal food.

Hens are social animals, preferring the companionship of those they know to strangers. They recover more quickly from stress when they are with an acquaintance.

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