In one experiment that explored chickens understanding of causal relationships, researchers found that when injured chickens were offered the choice between regular food and food that contained a painkiller, the birds soon understood that the medicated food made them feel better, and they learned to seek it out it over the other choices. The chickens will take the analgesic every time, says Dr. Joy Mench, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of California at Davis. They understood cause and effect and learned how to make the best decision.

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Chickens can also grasp other complex mental concepts. For instance, according to Evans, chickens are able to understand that objects still exist even after they are hidden or removed from view. This level of cognition is actually beyond the capacity of small human children. Researchers also recently reported that chickens can anticipate the future and demonstrate self-control, something previously attributed only to humans and other primates. Scientists made this discovery after they observed that when given the option between pecking a button and receiving a small food reward instantly or holding out for 22 seconds in order to receive a larger food reward, chickens in the study demonstrated self-control by holding out for the larger reward over 90 percent of the time.

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The chickens are about 31 days old. Clicking on a photo will enlarge the photo.

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