The Chicken Chronicles: The World’s Dumbest Chicken


Entertaining, Yes. Smart, No

I know a lot of folks love their chickens and think they’re smarter than we give them credit for. Sure, they’re entertaining creatures and I get kick out of watching them run raptor-style across the pasture, scratch contentedly in the compost, and chase butterflies in the sunshine. It’s fun to have chickens. But I won’t be slapping any ‘My Chicken is Smarter than Your Honor Student’ bumper stickers on my car anytime soon.

Case in Point…

I raised a batch of 30 Cornish X hybrid meat chickens this spring. I have to say that they’ve got to be the worlds dumbest chickens. The eat until their crop is overflowing and food is coming out of their mouths. I’ve witnessed them laying in their own poo when I put down fresh straw inches away. They sleep in their food dish, on their food…which they also poop in (it’s a chicken thing). They just are not the sharpest tools in the shed. My neighbors call them the ‘loony birds.’ However, they are very tasty with BBQ sauce.

It really shouldn’t surprise me that one of my meat chickens almost died of stupidity.

Out of the 30 Cornish I raised, there was one little runt that never kept up with the rest of the flock. That little pullet was about half the size of the others when butchering time came around in June. I decided to put off her demise and wait to see if she would put on enough bulk to butcher. As she slowly increased in size I hatched what may be a hare brained idea. Why not keep this little bird and see if she lays eggs? I have a nice rooster and perhaps the cross would produce some dual purpose birds that reach a nice butchering size earlier than your typical heritage breed. Sounds like a plan. Plus it’s too darn hot right now to butcher a chicken. So her little chicken life has been spared.

All was well until one day the little meat pullet came up missing. I suspected a fox or a hawk had snatched away my dream of raising the perfect dual purpose bird (probably a pie in the sky dream anyway). You get used to having your chickens disappear or die occasionally. Such is life on a homestead.


Life Goes On…

The rest of chickens went on with life as if nothing happened…which is what I expected. They aren’t sentimental creatures. The temps started climbing up into the 90s. Fans are set up in the coop to keep the air moving and the heat down. At the end of a particularly warm day I stopped to brush the dust off one of the fans. As I cleaned the fan I noticed an upside down metal feed pan started to move like it was possessed, maybe by a ‘poultrygeist’ I mused. Realistically, I suspected mice and wasn’t crazy about checking under the pan. It had been upside down for several days and I kept thinking “I need to take that pan out and clean it.” But that was as far as I got.

When I lifted the pan, what flopped out? The missing meat pullet! It surprised the heck out of me since I was expecting mice. She was dirty and wobbly and obviously in rough shape after spending 3 days trapped under a food dish. I picked her up and set her next to the water dish. She drank and drank as she wobbled on her weak little legs. I felt awful that I didn’t pick the pan up sooner. But seriously folks, that pan is not heavy…not heavy enough to trap a chicken! I can’t figure out how this chicken could be so stupid that it didn’t push under the side of the pan to escape. Perhaps she won’t be adding the best genetic material to my flock after all.

My Cornish X pullet at about 10 weeks.

The Lesson

That addled bird taught me a lesson…don’t leave food pans upside down in the chicken coop. There just might be a dumb bird trapped underneath. So far this little bird takes the prize for the dumbest chicken I’ve ever raised.


Update: I did raise this pullet to egg bearing age, and she actually produced eggs quite well for a few months. However, I was not successful in hatching any of her eggs. She spent a lot of her time sitting next to the food stuffing her beak, so I would not reccomend keeping a Cornish Cross pullet for efficient egg production. Yo can read more about this experience in my post Can You Keep Cornish X Chickens as Laying Hens?




22 Comments on “The Chicken Chronicles: The World’s Dumbest Chicken

  1. Your story about your Cornish X runt got me thinking. At first her photos looked like a Wheaten Malay hen. Wonder if the guarded secret breed in Cornish X are an infusion of Malay also? Goodness knows they’ve used Cornish Game, and Malay crosses in BRs and nearly every other dual-purpose bird to increase their size! Lucky girl not to make it to freezer camp!

  2. I always thought that combining the words “dumb” and “chicken” was an exercise in redundancy. You have proven me wrong.

  3. I couldn’t stop laughing at this! We aren’t in a house yet, but when we get one we want to raise egg-laying hens. This gave me something to look forward to. =)

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    1. Glad you got a chuckle out of my silly chicken story, Regula 🙂 Normally I wouldn’t attempt to keep any of the Cornish x to try and breed. They usually grow so fast and get so big that they have heart attacks or problems with their legs. But this little one is growing at a more normal rate and seems to be very healthy. If she makes it to laying age, she just might give a few eggs…although I’m sure there won’t be many. We’ll see if my experiment is a total failure 🙂

  4. they are so stupid and yet the survive all these ridiculous things that happen to them. I once flipped over an upside down water dish to find two little roosters trapped underneath! Must happen to them all the time!

    1. Hi Mary,
      I have been imagining the chicken trying to walk out from under, but not figure out that she needed to put her beak under the side of the pan…just walking around with a pan on her head. Sheesh. 🙂

  5. Unfortunately, this is what “breeding” has done to these once fine birds–and they do the best they can with what was dealt to them. Mucking with genetics changes many things and often not for the best. It’s like most egg-laying chickens now–their ability to hatch & raise their own young has been bred out of them…..a bit like the terminator seeds in that people have to keep buying the chicks. I think that, somehow, we need to get back to this aspect of self-sufficiency as well.

    1. Hi Ellen,
      You are 100% right about that! I have been hoping to breed for a better ‘all around’ chicken that will forage for more of its feed. We’ll see if I ever find the perfect chicken 🙂

  6. Many a time have I picked up a knocked over bucket and had a chicken pop out. Usually they just waddle away like they meant for it to happen.

    We keep our feed in metal garbage cans with lids, I’ve never seen it happen but more than once I’ve pried the lid off to find a chicken inside. I can’t figure out how they open the lid, get inside and put the lid back on.

    1. Hi Alecia,
      Well those are some pretty enterprising chickens you’ve got there! I have my feed in metal garbage cans too, but now I have them out in the main part of our garage (my coop is built into our garage) because they would roost on them and they were always covered with chicken poop.

      I guess I just need to go around and check everything more often. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Nora,
      Yes, she survived and seemed none the worse for wear the next day. As always, she’s the first one in the dish when I feed them in the morning 🙂

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