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Think of this when  you eat Chicken!

Next time you pass by a truck full of small cages filled with chickens, most of whom have one leg or wing broken and are squatting in great pain and utter hopeless anguish in the truck, while the wind tears about them and the faeces of the chickens in the cages above theirs drip onto them , remember that they are probably talking to each other and wondering what hell they are being taken to. When you see them in dirty cages outside chicken shops watching their kin being pulled out and chopped in front of them, imagine what they must be saying to each other! What would you have said in their place?

Chickens talk a lot. They have a rich language and intelligence. According to new research, chickens make meaningful sounds that refer to objects around them. A pecking chicken that goes "tck, tck, tck," for example, is saying, "Hey look, thereís food!" Would you kill and eat a monkey or an ape with the same indifference with which you eat chickens? No, because you know they think and deal with the world, almost as humans do. Scientists have proved again and again that primates make sounds that, like words, represent something in the world around them.

Now, scientists have found that chickens are like monkeys in their word and sentence structure. Each cluck means something and lots of clucks together mean whole sentences. Studies in Macquarie University , Australia show that male chickens make certain clucking noises when they find food. When female chickens (hens) hear these noises, they stomp over and either take some food from a maleís beak or stare at the ground looking for morsels to eat. Other studies show, for example, that chickens make alarm calls when scared by an intruder. The calls differ depending on whether the intruder walks or flies toward them, which means that the chicken is saying, " An intruder is walking towards me so scatter in this fashion" or " A bird is flying overhead so run and hide!" That it is an understandable language is shown by the fact that other chickens react by looking either up in the air or around on the ground.

In another experiment , researchers allowed half the hens to find some cornĖnot enough to fill the animals up, but enough to alert them that food was around. The other half did not get any corn.The scientists then played recordings of male food calls for the hens. The hens that already knew food was available looked at the ground for just 3 seconds. The hens without food, on the other hand, searched for an average of 7.5 seconds after hearing the male calls. On the other hand, when the hens heard alarm calls, both fed and unfed birds reacted in the same way. These results show  the birds knew what the food call meant, and their reaction depended on what they already knew about the food supply in the area so they could judge whether the call was a lie or not. Primatologist Klaus ZuberbŁhler of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland compares the results to those from his own test with monkeys. Monkey calls indicating one kind of predator, say a snake, were completely different, from those , about an eagle and the monkeys responded differently to both.

Chickens have a complex communication system which includes over 20 different signals that humans have interpreted and at least several hundred more that are under translation. Here are some of the calls that you can learn to understand. waanh-hunh: "Iím curious", bu-bu-bu-bu-buh: "Hello", k-k-k-k-k-kh: "Iím happy!", tw-tw-tw-tw-tw: "Iím on the nest", ooonhaawh: "Get out of my way, I want your space", ooonhaawh (half speed) ĎSounds like a foghorn, doesnít it? , huh-huh-huh-ahn: "Give me some food", wnnn-nn wn-wn: "What are you doing?", cuc-cuc-cuc1: "Thereís a cat on that fence!" ,cuc-cuc-cuc2 "Happy curiosity. Friendly,wtwtwtwtwtnnn "Donít touch my egg", tookatookatooka: "What happy bliss on a perfect day in the shade," and a soft scream: "Hawk overhead!"  Excited cackling Ga-ga-GAAK, ga-ga-GAAK means dangerous human coming.

We have yet to analyse the calls such as "Please donít hurt me,"

"please donít kill him", "please donít take away my baby", "Ouch! that hurts very much" and "my wing is broken."

Fowl linguist ,Scientist Dr. Erich Baeumer of Wiedenau, Germany, who has been studying chickens since 1954 says that he has made a list of 30 sentences which are part of a spoken international chicken language, be it an Indian Jungle fowl, a Russian Orloff rooster, an Italian Leghorn, a Cornish cock or a New Hampshire Red. Baeumer was only eight when he realised that he could understand the chickens around his house. "It was an intuitive understanding, I could actually tell what they were saying. I began to spend hours with them; they became brothers and sisters to me," he says. He learned to imitate their sounds so well that he was accepted as a full-fledged member of the flock. Only when his voice changed did the chickens break off communication with him.

In 1954, he started working with Professor Erich von Hoist at the Institute of Behaviour Physiology near Munich. Chickens were photographed and recorded repeatedly . After recording hours of chicken talk, Dr. Baeumer selected examples of clear-cut chicken "sentences" that could be related to records or photographs of specific actions. Dr. Baeumerís chick-talk tapes have been played at universities in many countries. He knows the loneliness cries of young chicks separated from their mother ("Pieep-pieep-pieep") and their terror trills, a high-pitched "Trr-trr." Both sexes make "frightened" cackles when first they sense danger. After the danger passes, their cackling is full-throated and rhythmical, as if they had triumphed . Hens make a  cackle when they have laid an egg, but Dr. Baeumer does not think they are boasting or saying, "Thank heaven thatís over." He believes that it all goes back to the days when wild hens laid eggs in hidden nests. After each delivery, the hen gave a loud cackle to regain contact with the rest of the flock.Chickens make screams of distress; they have battle cries and calls for privacy. Hens lead their chicks to food with a gentle "Tuck-tuck-tuck," and roosters entice pretty young hens with soft cooing. "Chicken behaviour is not too different from human behaviour," says Dr. Baeumer, " Nor is the chicken language"

Think of this when you eat chicken. What could the bird you are eating have been saying as she was dragged out to be killed for you? Could it have been, "Forgive them for they know not what they doí?

Anyone desirous of joining the Animal Welfare Movement can contact Smt Gandhi at 14 Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110001 or gandhim@parlis.nic.in

 

 

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