The Italian Almanac


Chick Can Count

Three-day-old chickens are able to do basic arithmetic, Italian researchers announced. Scientists from the universities of Trento and Padua said the chicks were able to add and subtract objects that were hidden behind two screens.

The chicks were exposed from birth to five yellow plastic balls that they formed an attachment to via the instant recognition process known as imprinting, which also makes chicks stick close to their mother when they hatch. The scientists, who had already noted that the chicks would move towards a group containing more of the balls, tested the birds` mathematical ability by moving the balls, one by one, behind two screens as the chicks watched from a holding box. When the chicks were freed, they immediately made for the screen behind which were the largest group of balls.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society`s biology series, shows the chicks have a mathematical instinct even at a very young age - the first time that this has been proven in any animal, the researchers said.