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  • Writer's pictureAnnie

Can Chickens Smell and Taste?

Growing up, I loved coming home from school. My mom always did an incredible job of making our house feel like a home. We felt safe, significant and it seemed like there were many days when a home baked treat was waiting for us after school. I could smell the fresh baked cookies before I walked in the door and I would follow the scent right into the kitchen. It’s there I found mom and a plate of warm, fresh cookies. Our senses have a funny way of bringing all sorts of memories back, don’t they?

Naturally, I wanted to create that same feeling of belonging in our home for my kids and family. And being the chicken mama I am, I’d love for the girls to smell their treats from a mile away and savor each bite. But can they? Today, we’re going to learn if our feathery friends can smell and taste.

Their favorite treat by far is watermelon!

When I bring a pile of kitchen scraps out to the girls, it always amazes me how they go wild over some of it and some things they don’t touch at all. This begs the question; can chickens smell and taste like humans? The answer, in short, is that yes, chickens can smell and taste, but not to the degree humans can.

Chickens seem to have a small ability to smell or taste. They seem to prefer foods of certain colors. Chickens can see incredibly well...better than humans even! So, with all the different colored foods, they really get excited. My chickens go wild over watermelon. It’s their favorite treat, especially during hot summer months.

Humans have somewhere between 8,000-10,000 taste buds while the average chicken has less than 350. That’s quite a difference! Also, the taste buds of a chicken are located in the back of their oral cavity, so they don’t really taste much until it’s already on the way down! There isn’t much savoring on their part. They see something and commit and swallow. There are a small percentage of taste buds on their tongues, but not many. They likely choose their food based on its size, shape or color. Another fun fact is that the number of taste buds a chicken has varies by their age, breed and gender.

Scientists are still trying to learn how well chickens can actually smell. They know they can, they just don’t really know the extent. Chickens’ eyesight, hearing and balance is incredibly strong but their smell and taste are quite a bit weaker. So, they definitely can’t smell their birthday cake when I’m busy in the house trying to make their birthdays special by baking them a scratch and worm birthday cake. (Yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds! Haha! #chickenmom) But they seem to go nuts over it when I bring it out.

Chickens are smart little creatures despite the term “bird brains”. They actually have an incredible capacity to remember and recognize. So, most of the time, chickens will learn their lesson if they eat something they shouldn’t or don’t like. Also, we do know that chickens don’t care for strong and bitter smells such as ammonia from their poop! I remedy this by keeping Coop Recuperate on hand at all times. It helps the coop smell fresh and keeps the ammonia odor (which is bad for your flock) and moisture down.

While it seems hard to imagine life without much taste or smell, chickens don’t know anything different. They seem to tootle through life one bug or treat at a time. However, it is important to remember that it is our job as chicken keepers to provide them with a balanced diet of good quality chicken feed and healthy treats.

Until next time,

--The Wing Lady


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