Are Chickens Blind?


Enjoying the sun!

I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to point something out to one of my birds, only to have them stare at my finger. Sometimes this can be quite frustrating as I’m trying to distribute treats evenly (the smart birds always steal the most). But despite my best efforts, the bird I’m trying so hard to help never sees the treat, leaving me to ask, ‘are you blind?’

A chicken’s eyes are fully functioning. It is thought that their level of perception of things at distance is along the same level as a human. However, while a human eye has 3 cones from which we perceive color, chickens have an additional 4th cone that can detect ultraviolet light. Consequently, the world will look very different to them.

If you still have question regarding a chicken’s eyesight, I recommend that you take a moment and observe them. These birds have an uncanny knack for spying tiny insects that may be hiding in amongst the grass.

Chickens will also run for cover at the appearance of other large birds. A hawk sitting on a fence post is sure to get their attention. Of course, a hawk will detect a chicken LONG before the chicken sees the hawk. But once a chicken notices the danger, the predator is certain to be at the top of their priority list.

### Important Note ###

If you see your flock frozen in place and staring in the same direction, this behavior usually indicates an object of significant importance. I strongly recommend that you investigate immediately. Sometimes you may find something as benign as a baby bunny and other times you may find a predator watching at a distance. It really pays for you to go and investigate.

Are Chickens Blind At Night?

Every evening as the sun goes down, my flock will slowly make their way to the coop. One might think that after a day spent foraging, they are simply tired and ready for bed. But this is not the case.

Chickens can see in the dark about as well as humans can. And when compared to the nocturnal animals that prowl your neighborhood at night, this means that chickens are pretty much blind in the dark.

It is because of this limited ability to see in the dark, that they instinctively look for a place of safety. Much like a child needs a nightlight or the closet door closed, a chicken has a very plausible sense of fear of the things that go bump in the night.

This was made clear to me just this morning as I went out, just a few minutes before sunrise to let them out of their coop. On any normal day, they will all quickly bust out ready to start the day. But this morning, it took a full 10 minutes to exit – bolting immediately for a nearby pine tree where they remained for over an hour. I have no idea what may have visited them just before I arrived, but it certainly made an impression.

Do Chickens See In Color?

When I was first getting into raising chickens, I found it odd that pretty much all of the feeders and waterers had a red color base to them. There were a few stainless steel options available, but for the most part everything was red.

As time progressed, and my learning curve grew, I came to understand that once a chicken associates food or water with the color red, then you can switch feed and watering containers, as need dictates, and the birds will still be able to find the nourishment they require.

So in short answer, yes, chickens do see color. However, they just won’t see the same color that we do while looking at the same thing.

As mentioned before, a chicken’s eye shares the same physiology (three cones) as humans. This allows them to perceive color, just as we do. But, chickens also have a fourth cone that is receptive to ultraviolet light. The addition light spectrum changes their perception, consequently they see colors differently than we do.

What Color Are Chickens Most Attracted To?

The trouble with this question is in the assumption that chickens don’t have their own unique personalities. Asking what color chickens prefer is like asking what color humans like. Yes, there are colors that have a general appeal to everyone. But these colors will have different levels of appeal to each individual viewer.

While the overwhelming majority of chicken feed and watering devices are red, I have observed that chickens will take notice of anything new in their run, regardless of what color it is. For this reason, I purpose that chickens are most attracted to things that provoke their curiosity rather than specific colors.

For example, right now, the outdoor temps at my home are well below freezing. Not only is this annoying, as I personally prefer warmer weather, but extra effort must be spent ensuring that my flock has water available to drink.

With my home being off-grid, I don’t have the luxury of using an electric water dish. So what I do is simply fill a Tupperware dish with water, checking a few times a day to rid it of any ice.

Despite the ground being white with snow and despite my plastic dish being clear, the birds discovered it instantly and had no problems coming back to it when ever they needed a drink. For the record, it might have been helpful to paint it red, but then again, I suspect it would not have made any difference at all.

Do Chickens Recognize Their Owners?

With the ability to perceive ultraviolet light, I’ve often wondered what the world actually looks like from a chicken’s eyes. Should science ever make a pair of ‘chicken glasses’, I’m definitely going to want to take a look through them. It would be really interesting to know, what I look like to them.

But regardless of how they seem me, there is no doubt that a chicken can identify specific humans at distance.

When I leave the garage to clean the coop, if the flock is in view and not somewhere out on the property, they will meander their way towards me to see if I have a snack. However, if my wife walks out the garage door, the meander turns into a mad dash as they REALLY like her!

Even at distances of more than 100 yards, there will be a significant difference in the speed of their approach, depending on whether it is me or my wife that walks into their view.

Clearly, not only can they distinguish my wife from others, but they can prioritize her at a higher significance than anyone else. (Just one more reason to be patient and caring when raising your flock!)


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