Have you ever wondered what chickens see? Chickens have amazing vision but it is unique from what you’re probably used to! Chickens’ eyes are very compact and efficient but they also have some amazing visual capabilities…
1: Chickens have what is called ‘Binocular vision’
Although they see the same way humans do in a basic sense, Binocular vision allows them to ‘zoom’ in on objects and have a greater ability to perceive depth. However, because binocular vision allows a better ability to focus on small objects, it also limits their eye movement… This means that chickens have a smaller field of vision than humans because they can’t move their pupil much (if at all) without turning their head. This is why chickens are constantly moving their heads this way and that to peer at the subject of interest.
2: A chicken’s eye is huge compared to a human’s eye.
In fact, a chicken’s eye is ~25X larger than a human’s eye in comparison to head-size.
3: Chickens see color differently than people
Chickens see a broader spectrum of color than humans. They can see one more wavelength than humans (like violet, which means they can see at least some forms of ultraviolet light). So, to put this information into perspective, objects may be a different color in their eyes than they are in your eyes!
4: Chickens have an amazing ability to detect motion
Chickens have a special receptor in their eyes for detecting movement. It is scientifically proven that they can detect the slightest movements with incredible accuracy. This gives chickens the advantage at detecting potential predators. However, it also means rapid, quick or sudden movements can be more frightening to them than you or I because those movements are exaggerated in the bird’s vision.
5: Chickens have extremely poor night vision
Special light-sensitive receptors, found in the retina are responsible for night vision. These ‘receptors’ are called ‘rods’ Daytime vision requires other receptors called ‘cones’. A chicken’s eye has alot of cones. This gives chickens their amazing abilities to see different color spectrums but it means that chickens heavily depend on light to see things.
Above: My first pullets when I went to close the coop for the night.
6: Chickens DO ‘Blink’
Unlike some common myths may tell you, chickens really do blink… However, chickens blink so rapidly that you probably can’t even see it unless the chicken is relaxed or sleepy. Interestingly, animals blink slower when sick or injured so blinking speed can be used to help determine a chicken’s health status. However, illness is usually evident by other behaviors before blinking speed is noticeably affected.
Above: Video of Miriam, a Black Star (Black Sexlink) blinking very slowly (during egg-laying).
7: Chickens have three eyelids
Yep, it’s true. Chickens have two eyelids that close when the chicken is dozing but neither of those eyelids are intended for blinking. For blinking, chickens actually have a third eyelid that is specially reserved for the purpose. This third eyelid is a very unique, semi-transparent membrane that slides over the visible surface of the eye when needed. However, this third eyelid is located at the front of the chicken’s eye (towards the beak). You can see a hen mid-blink below.
8: You can make chickens close their eyes.
Chickens have a nerve located slightly behind each eye that causes their main eyelids to shut when slight pressure is applied. This is to protect their eyes from potential harm. However, it also means that, when you touch that nerve, the chicken’s eyelid will close. This can make the bird appear like the it is getting sleepy.
9: Chickens’ eyelids close upside-down
Unlike humans and many mammals, chickens’ eyelids close from bottom to top. In fact, their top eyelid can hardly move at all.
10: Chickens’ eyes come in many different colors (just like people!)
Some of the most common colors are yellow or orangey gold, dark brown, light (honey) brown and greenish browns (hazel). Although it is somewhat less common, some chickens have black, red, bright green or blueish eyes. Certain breeds have genes that predispose them for specific eye colors. So, even though every eye is slightly different, chickens of the same breed often have common eye colors: Australorps have very dark brown eyes that sometimes have a reddish tint. Barred Plymouth Rocks’ eyes are gold but may contain hints of greens, orange or even both. Star hybrids have honey-brown eyes that are sometimes light enough to fit into the category of gold and sometimes dark enough to be med/dark brown. Welsummers’ eyes are generally a light to medium shade of brown or orange with golden accents. Like People, chickens’ eye color will change slightly with age.