Lesson 322 – Chickens and ants – how do they even SEE them?

This is what a chicken calls a feast. Remember that snack we made for the kids when they were younger, raisins on a peanut butter filled celery stick that was called “ants on a log”? Eew, yuck – right?

Well here you have the real thing “ants on an apple”. Eew, yuck. I know.

Chickens love ants (they also love worms, grasshoppers, and ticks). It is nothing short of amazing to watch them as they scope out their prey (little, tiny, crawling things) and with the precision of a graduated cylinder they dart into the fray expertly skewering their tiny victims.

Note – that’s not the phrase I was going to use, it was “precision of …” something that I couldn’t remember so I Googled and found “the precision of a graduated cylinder” and thought “hey, now that’s a great example of something that is extraordinarily precise” so it stays.)

If you’ve ever been up close and personal to a chicken, you know that they have these amazing rapture-like eyes. The thing is that those eyes are located on the sides of their head. How on earth then are the chickens able to get the stereo depth perception needed to “capture” a tiny ant from an apple?

The answer is that birds (including chickens) have something called a “field of vision”. Unlike a predator whose eyes are in the front which allow them to focus in on their target, birds with their eyes on the side see a wider field of what’s going on. Each eye presents them with a large circle of vision, the big picture as it were. They are able to see that cat way in the woods as well as that freaky neighbor kid who is (still) hanging at the corner.

Seeing the big picture is fine but when you’re hungry for ants, it’s just not going to cut it. Birds, being the clever things that they are have figured a way around this through the action of “bobbing”. When a bird bobs up and down, they’re not just showing you their ADHD tendencies, they are trying to get various input on an object from different angles and perspectives. The bobbing doesn’t just make them look cute, it provides additional information which is then used to judged distance.

Which is why, if I let my chickens loose on this apple (which, incidentally I did shortly after this photo was taken) the ants would all be x-ants in a matter of minutes. Sad for the ants but yummy in the tummy for my clever birds.

Going in for the (ant) kill


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Project Chickens before the Eggs, The Chicken Challenge

8 responses to “Lesson 322 – Chickens and ants – how do they even SEE them?

  1. tina

    full of protein and no fat will keep those ladies lean 😉

    • Wendy Thomas


      Anyone who has watched even half an hour on the Discovery Channel knows that insects are a high-protein filled snack.

      Yum, yum.


  2. Melody

    I am learning so much about chickens through your blog. You really are a wealth of chicken-knowledge. Not to mention, I love your writing!

    • Wendy Thomas


      What a nice thing to say! Certainly brought a smile to my face.

      Glad you are enjoying the blog. Are you a chicken owner, a chicken-wanna-be owner, or just an observer of flocks?


      • Melody

        I’m a wanna-be chicken owner. I can’t wait until the day I can have chickens, but for now, I live in a townhouse. 😦

      • Wendy Thomas


        You can come over and visit with ours anytime. Just let me know when you’re in the neighborhood.

        Like eggs?


  3. Melody

    Oh my goodness, yes! I’ve been desperately trying to find a place to buy farm fresh eggs. A woman I used to work with would bring me eggs from her flock, on occasion. Once you’ve had the real fresh stuff, store-bought eggs just do not compare!

    Would love to come visit your flock sometime.

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