Anyone who has owned backyard chickens knows that chickens have excellent eyesight. They can spot a tiny insect or something shiny much further away than we can.
But what about colors - are chickens color blind? Do they see the same spectrum of colors as we do?
I decided to look into this because it’s fairly common knowledge that household pets like cats and dogs can only see a limited number of colors.
Chickens, on the other hand, are very different. In fact, they have much better color vision than we do as I will explain:
Are Chickens Color Blind?
No, chickens are not color blind.
In fact, they can see a wider range of colors than we can. We have three types of cones in our eyes that see colors; blue, green, and red, and then variations of these colors.
Chickens one-up us by having five cones. One that can detect violet wavelengths, which includes some ultraviolet light. Another that is called a “double cone”, which is believed to help them detect motion.
According to LiveScience these receptors are basically interwoven mosaics that maximize a chicken’s ability to see lots of colors in any part of their retina.
Dr. Joseph Corbo from the Washington University School of Medicine who was involved in this study said, “Color receptor organization in the chicken retina greatly exceeds that seen in most other retinas.”
This is pretty conclusive evidence that chickens are not color blind. They can see a wider range of colors than we can, and they are better at spotting motion - which is why they can see those tiny insects when we can’t.
Can Chickens See in the Dark?
While chickens have excellent color vision, they do not have excellent night vision.
I’ve heard a lot of backyard flock owners referred to chickens as “night blind”. This is a form of vision impairment that means someone, or something has very poor vision at night.
This is because anyone who has owned chickens will have seen how they behave when it’s dark. For the most part, they just roost and sleep.
If you approach a chicken when it’s dark, they act very nervous and don’t make good eye contact. Often just going limp if you handle them, this is because they can’t see what’s happening so it’s pretty scary for them.
Night-vision requires light-sensitive photoreceptors in the retina called rods. We have around 120 million rods in our eyes, while chickens have far fewer.
LiveScience also explained this and tied it into them having superior color vision because birds didn’t spend a long evolutionary period in the dark.
As unlikely as it seems to look at them, chickens and birds, in general, are believed to be descendants of dinosaurs. While most mammals were nocturnal during the dinosaur period, birds and dinosaurs were not.
Hence, why they have evolved to have excellent day vision and poor night vision.
Related - Are chickens blind at night?
Do Chickens Have a Favorite Color?
This is an interesting question. Because if there are colors chickens prefer, you can paint their coop in that color and use it to color-code some of their stuff.
I’ve dangled a few different color fabrics in front of my flock to see if I could gauge any different reactions - and nothing.
Discussing it with other owners and reading through some forums, I read from a lot of people that their chickens respond better to brighter colors. Which makes sense.
Barn red is fine for their coop, but I have a friend who swears her chooks are much happier with the inside of the coop being a cream color.
She also said painting the nesting boxes makes her hens much more likely to use them. So, it’s something to think about.
There you have it, some science to back up the fact that chickens have better color vision than we do.
They are not color blind like some other household pets and animals. They have excellent eyesight, although only during daylight hours.
Chickens have very poor night vision. It’s not an issue as chickens are more than happy to be rooting in their coop overnight, but it’s worth keeping in mind if they’re ever free-ranging as dusk draws in.
Chickens see color better than humans? - LiveScience.com