The Year of The Rooster

Royal Mail is continuing its series of Lunar New Year Generic Sheets which it has issued since 2012. In the Chinese zodiac a different animal is assigned to each year in the twelve-year cycle. 2017 will be the Year of the Rooster. According to Chinese beliefs, people born in the year of the rooster will be observant, hardworking, confident, courageous, frank and honest.

You may or may not have faith in Chinese astrology, but here are some fun facts about chickens which are definitely true!

  1. Chickens are sophisticated communicators and can make as many as 30 different vocalisations.
  2. Hens will vigorously defend their young against predators. Perhaps we shouldn’t really use the term chicken to describe a coward!
  3. You can tell when a chicken is about to lay an egg. Their combs will grow larger and a more vibrant red and they sometimes squat and behave submissively if petted.
  4. Chickens are diligent parents and can teach their young to eat the right food. They are able to show their chicks which grains are bad for them.
  5. Chickens can tell one person from another and are able to recognise and then commit to memory the faces of up to 100 other chickens.
  6. Chickens display sophisticated social behaviour. Groups develop a hierarchy with certain chickens exerting dominance over other birds, hence the terms hen pecking and pecking order!
  7. Unlike young humans, chickens possess the cognitive ability to comprehend that when an object is taken away from them or hidden from view, it still exists.
  8. There are more chickens on the planet than any other species of bird.
  9. Chickens have more bones in their necks than giraffes do.
  10. Chickens can’t taste sweetness but they can taste saltiness in their food.
  11. The longest flight recorded by a chicken lasted a mere 13 seconds.
  12. White chickens with white ear lobes will lay white eggs and brown chickens with red ear lobes will lay brown eggs.
  13. Hens are happy to mate with several different cockerels but if they decide that they do not want to produc the young of a particular partner, they can eject its sperm!
  14. Cocks perform a dance during the mating ritual. Research has shown that females prefer males that dance more often.

Chickens are seriously underrated and misunderstood creatures. They are surprisingly intelligent animals with impressive social and cognitive skills. Perhaps we should appreciate these birds a little more. We can certainly all celebrate the Year of the Rooster and the new Royal Mail Generic Sheet is a good place to start. It features 20 x First Class Smilers ‘Fireworks’ stamps alongside labels showing images of Chinese New Year festivities in various cities around the UK.