Chickens 'more clever' than toddlers

They might be portrayed as bird brains. But chickens are actually brain birds that could be more clever than toddlers, according to new research.

Within a few hours of hatching, chickens apparently exhibit intelligent behaviour.

Hens quickly develop skills from numeracy, self-control and even basic strutural engineering - while it takes children until the age of four to gain some of these abilities, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

Chicks are also able to keep track of numbers up to five.

Researchers demonstrated this by showing how the newly-born creatures invariably choose the bigger group when given sets of plastic eggs.

And the birds even understand engineering, showing more interest in a diagram of an object that could be built than another that defied the laws of physics.

On top of that, very young chicks understand an object that moves out of sight still exists - a skill that takes a baby a year to gain.

Chicks also exhibit basic empathy, self-control and planning, for example quickly learning that if they waited longer to start eating food, they would get longer access to the food.

But it takes humans until the age of four to do this, according to studies.

At just two weeks old, hens can even navigate using the sun.

But it seems unlikely that chickens are about to make a major breakthrough that will transform the world, according to the academic who carried out a review of 20 years of research on the topic.

Christine Nicol, the Bristol University professor of animal welfare, was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: "Chickens may not be about to make a significant mathematical, scientific or literary contribution to the world, but chickens have the capacity to master skills and develop abilities that a human child can take months and years to accomplish."

But the academic, whose review was commissioned by free range egg firm the happy egg co, also said: "On the other hand, we shouldn’t go too far. No chicken has yet written a review of human intelligence."