Not only do chickens see in colour, but in many ways, these wonderful little birds have better vision than us humans! We have three different cone types (colour sensing cells) in our eyes, which means we can perceive red, green, and blue colours. Whereas chickens have an additional two cone types and can also distinguish violet and ultraviolet light. This means they can differentiate between and see far more colours and shades than humans can!
The UV cones help them to find the shiny insects, seeds, berries, and fruits they like to eat easily among non-UV reflecting grass and soil - and most importantly the safe foods for them to eat. Colour is so important when working out the difference between something potentially toxic or safe.
A mother hen may also use her UV cones to sense which chicks are healthiest, as growing feathers reflect UV light. She can then determine the chicks who are growing fastest and strongest and devote more of her energy to them to ensure they survive.
This also means that roosters can see the sunrise and will begin to crow about an hour before you can see the sun. Throughout history, before mechanical alarm clocks were invented, roosters served as alarms waking us up at dawn – and rooster’s crows are particularly loud, reaching between 50 and 60 dB!
Sadly, therefore thousands of roosters are abandoned every year and this is why you will see so many rooster residents here at Brockswood. Aside from the fact that male chickens are unable to produce eggs and so do not serve the purpose that many backyard keepers want them for, they can also be very noisy and cause complaints from neighbours who don’t appreciate their crowing so early in the morning. We are so grateful to our neighbours who so kindly accept our rooster family here.
Speaking of roosters, the spectrums of colours that we can’t visibly see are visible to chickens as distinctive marks on their face and feathers. Roosters will display vibrant and fluorescent colours on their combs (the fleshy part of their head) and plumage to attract potential mates. These differences also help them to tell each other apart, like you and I can easily tell the difference between one another!
Chickens see a rich and colourful world. Doesn't that make it all the worse for those poor chickens locked in tiny cages and barns, unable to put this amazing sense to use and see the beautiful world around them, with the many colours and shades of nature that we can only dream of?
Thank you for helping to colour the world for our chicken residents!