Do Chickens Have a Sense of Smell?

Our domesticated feathered friends don’t rely on their noses as much as their sight in terms of their survival instincts, but more and more studies have begun to indicate that a chicken’s sense of smell may be better than we previously assumed. In this compre-hen-sive post, we’ll be outlining some key facts surrounding chickens and their sense of smell. 

Do chickens have a sense of smell?

There seems to be a lot of speculation out there as to whether chickens have a good sense of smell or not. The basic truth is that chickens do indeed have a highly-developed sense of smell, and according to a study from the Royal Society Publishing journal, they are more instinctively intelligent than we once thought.

In fact, like most birds, chickens rely on their sense of smell to track down their food, and they have been proven to be responsive to different scents and even people. It’s evidenced that chickens develop their sense of smell very early on in their lives. Of course, this is credited to the fact that young animals learn to rely on their senses to survive, but according to research, chicks have the distinct ability to discern certain smells before they have even hatched.

Can chickens smell predators?

As a species that has survived in the wild among predators for thousands of years, chickens do have the ability to assess the danger of situations and smell fear. In a study published on the Global Animal Network, researchers tested chicken’s abilities to detect and distinguish between predator odour cues. In the experiment, different zones were scented with predator odours, while others were left with none. The chicken’s reactions to both these zones were strikingly different, offering further evidence that chickens do have a considerably good sense of smell, especially in threatening situations. 

Can chickens smell food?

It’s humorously well-known that chickens can be fussy eaters. Just like humans, chickens are believed to be able to differentiate foods in terms of their nutrition levels, and can even have food preferences. For example, one hen may particularly love to eat juicy tomatoes, while other members of the flock may choose dry buckwheat as their favoured meal. Very little research surrounds this behaviour, but it’s generally understood that a chicken’s food preferences aren’t determined by smell, but instead possibly by colour. 

What smells do chickens dislike?

The answer to this question will come down to the individual personality of your chickens. In most cases, chickens tend to have a disinclination towards smells like citrus and herbs with strong odours, such as lavender, catnip, spearmint, marigold, or chives. As there’s no supporting evidence to suggest that these particular foods are toxic to chickens, their aversion to these odours remains unknown.