When it comes to eyesight, there are some pretty amazing facts you should know about chickens eyes. While they see the same way that we do, their eyesight is much better. They have the ability to see more colors than we do, have a larger field of vision, detect fine movements better than humans and even have a 3rd eyelid!
#1 Chickens Have 3 Eyelids
Unlike humans, chickens have a 3rd eyelid called a nictitating membrane. This is a thin, semi-transparent membrane that slides horizontally across the eye to protect it from dirt and debris as well as to lubricate the eyeball.
You are most likely to see the nictitating membrane when a chicken is taking a dust bath. It will close the 3rd eyelid to protect it from getting dirt and debris in them. Chickens will also close the third eyelids to clear debris that may have got into the eyes.
#2 Chicken Blink Differently
It isn’t too often that you can capture a chicken blinking. They do not blink as frequently as humans do. When a chicken blinks its eyes, the nictitating membrane moves from the side closest the beak outward.
Chickens do not use their other two eyelids like humans do. They will close their eyelids when they sleep or are preening though.
Humans blink by moving their upper eyelid down. When a chicken closes their eyelids their bottom eyelid comes up to close the eye. Their top eyelid moves very little.
#3 Chickens Use Their Eyes Independently
Chickens eyes are located on the sides of their head and they use each eye independently. This is called monocular vision and gives them 300 degree field of vision. Humans only have 180 degree field of vision.
A chicken has one eye that is near sighted and one eye that is far sighted. This is because of the way a chick embryo is positioned in its shell. A chick positions itself with its head tucked under its right wing. This exposes its right eye to light that shines through the eggshell. Its left eye is not exposed to any light, being tucked against its body.
Because of a chicks positioning days prior to hatching, their right eye become near sighted and their left eye, far sighted.
Chickens will use their right eye to catch tiny bugs and their left eye to spot predators from up above. Due to having a double cone structure, chickens have an increased ability to track fine movement. This makes them more able to detect a predator from approaching or to find tiny ants, hiding grasshoppers, etc.
Next time you are out with your chickens and see a hawk flying above, watch your chickens. They will turn their head to face their left eye, which is far sighted, to the sky to keep an eye on them. (Before they run to take cover!)
#4 Chickens See More Colors Than Humans
Humans can see reds, blues and greens. Chickens see these colors too, but they can also see ultraviolet! They posses 4 different types of cones, which makes them tetrachromats.
According to Wikipedia, “Tetrachromacy is the condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information, or possessing four types of cone cell in the eye. Organisms with tetrachromacy are called tetrachromats.
Mama hens are able to see which eggs are not viable or are not going to survive and will instinctively remove the egg from her clutch.
Mama hen can also see which of her chicks are healthiest and will tend to them over the unhealthy or weaker ones. Chicks that are growing the quickest are typically healthier and have more feathers. Mama hen is able to see the ultraviolet shine in her baby chicks new feathers. She will devote her time into making sure that the healthiest chicks continue to thrive. Talk about survival of the fittest!
#5 Chickens Can Not See Well in the Dark
While cones allow you to see color, rods help you to see better in the dark. Chickens have very little rods, therefore do not see very well in the dark. Due to their poor night vision, they are at risk of being attacked by predators at night. This is why they instinctively seek out the highest area to perch at night.
Free ranging chickens usually will make their way back home before sundown. This is always something to keep an eye on with a new free ranging flock. You want to make sure that they know their way back to their coop before it gets dark. Once it gets dark, due to their poor night vision, they would not be able to find their way back.
Round your new free rangers up before dark to make sure that they don’t become a midnight snack to predators. Once your chickens are used to where they go at night you shouldn’t have to do this.
For more information on how to protect your flock, read my article, 9 Simple Tips – How to Protect Your Chickens.
#6 Chicks Prefer Red and Orange
People have done studies that have shown baby chicks prefer red and orange over blue and green. This can explain why there are so many red colored feeders and waterers out on the market. Red attracts baby chicks and when they are little, you want to train them where there food and water are.
Full grown chickens will go crazy if they see blood. They will peck at it and peck at it and not stop. This is why it is necessary to separate chickens that have injuries where any blood is showing. Other flock members will peck that chicken to death.
#7 Baby Chicks See Better than Human Babies
Within the first 48 hours, baby chicks can see very clearly. They are able to see tiny objects, such as grains of food to eat, get around obstacles and can differentiate between shallow or deep surfaces (spatial ability). This is something that human babies do not develop for several weeks to months after birth.
#8 Chickens Eyeballs Move Very Little
A chickens eyeballs move very little in their socket. Instead, a chicken will move its head side to side to look at objects. It isn’t able to scan the area by moving its eyeballs. Instead, it moves its head up, down, side to side. It is constantly moving its head to keep aware of its surroundings.
#9 Chickens Can Recognize Up to 100 Faces
Chickens look at combs and wattles to differentiate between other flock members. They are said to be able to recognize up to 100 faces. This includes human faces too!
Roosters flaunt their big, red combs and wattles by “tidbitting.” A rooster will bring a treat to his hens, making a high pitch sound to let them know of his discovery. He will hop from one foot to another, bobbing his head up and down as he pecks the ground, swinging his comb and wattles around. A rooster will do this in hopes a hen will recognize him and be impressed, wanting to mate.
Chickens can remember faces and recognize when their “feeder” comes in to feed them! Every morning I am greeted with my flock running on top of each other to get to see who can get to me first. They know I am the one that feeds them!
Baby chicks recognize their mama too! It is said that they recognize each other with both sight and sound. Chickens are capable of making at least 30 different noises to communicate with each other. It could just be that they are recognizing each other by the sounds that they are making.
24 hours before a baby chick hatches, it breaks through the inner membrane of the eggshell. This allows them to take their first breath of air and to “chirp!” Mama hen communicates to her baby chicks by little chatters. They can actually hear her and start chirping back to her. This encourages them to keep working on breaking out of their shell!
#10 Chickens Can Remember Faces
Just as they recognize me as their “feeder,” I notice that they also recognize my dog and cat as friendly animals. The first time they saw them, they were very on guard and some even ran for cover. Now, they won’t even flinch when my dog or cat walks by them, but if an animal that they are unfamiliar with is in their sight of vision, they go on high alert.
Conclusion: Amazing Facts About Chickens Eyes
So there you have it, 10 amazing facts you now know about chickens eyes! I hope that you found this information useful. Did you learn anything new? Chickens are just amazing animals and I’m sure there is so much more about their eyesight that we will continue to learn.