That’s egg-strodinary! Rescued battery hen that was days from being slaughtered… learns how to COUNT

November 14, 2012 | by | 0 Comments

A rescued battery hen that was just days away from being slaughtered has stunned its owners with the egg-strordinary ability – to count.

The brainy chicken called JJ, three, has been dubbed the ”Carole Vorderman” of the poultry world by using playing cards to learn how to count to seven.

Owner Helen Jones, 47, can show the hen a playing card and JJ pecks her beak on it the corresponding number of times.

Scroll down to see a video of JJ counting

JJ the counting chicken with owners Helen, 47, and Justin, 44, Jones from Felmingham in Norfolk

JJ the counting chicken with owners Helen, 47, and Justin, 44, Jones from Felmingham in Norfolk

Incredibly, the clever chicken has now even started learning to play naughts and crosses.

JJ had been confined to laying eggs in a battery farm before she was free by animal campaigners last year.

She was taken to a shelter for ‘shell shocked’ hens where her new carers discovered she was actually a genius.

The stunned owner discovered the clucking amazing ability after hearing a rumour that chickens could be trained to perform tricks.

She thrust a card in front of JJ and rewarded her with grain when she tapped with her beak the correct number of times.

JJ the counting chicken after she was rescued from a battery farm. She was days away from being slaughtered

JJ the counting chicken after she was rescued from a battery farm. She was days away from being slaughtered

Proud owner Helen and her husband Justin Jones, 44, whose initials gave JJ her name have dubbed the wonder bird the ”Carole Vorderman” of the poultry world.

Helen said: “Once she had started to settle into the free range way of life I decided to try one or two things with her. She seemed to take to it very, very well. We were amazed.

“The important thing is to take very small steps and to not spend too long. It’s got to be fun for the hen or they lose interest.

“I take her to one side away from the other chickens and spend two or three minutes building up her skills.

“It’s very important to make sure they are rewarded when they get it right. The other chickens are amazed.

”They all stand and watch and then they want to have a go themselves. One or two others have tried it but they don’t seem to get it.”

JJ was rescued from her battery farm by British Hen Welfare Trust last summer after one of their officers discovered the bird was suffering from a broken pelvis.

The stricken chicken could not even walk and struggled to fit into the clutch of hen when first rehomed at Helen’s shelter in Felmingham, Norfolk.

JJ shows off her amazing counting ability by tapping her beak five times when presented with the five of hears playing card

JJ shows off her amazing counting ability by tapping her beak five times when presented with the five of hears playing card

The three-year-old bird has proved that birds are intelligent creatures with the ability to perform tricks and count

The three-year-old bird has proved that birds are intelligent creatures with the ability to perform tricks and count

The boffin bird had reached 18-months, the average age of a battery hen, which is when they become less productive, or “spent.”

But fortunately the British Hen Welfare Trust stepped in and rehomed her with landscape gardener Helen Jones.

And after JJ’s hilarious talent was uncovered, she has become the envy of all the other birds, who have also started having counting lessons.

Helen said she first became interested in the idea of training hens after watching a programme on BBC2 called ‘The Private life of … Chickens.’

The TV show, starring Jimmy Doherty from the British Hen Welfare Trust, explained how hens – like all birds – have excellent eye sight.

Birds have a strong visual memory, which means they can quickly learn to associate patterns with receiving food rewards.

Gardener Helen, 47, decided she would see if she could use the theory to teach JJ how to count.

Training began just six weeks ago when Helen showed JJ the ‘Ace’ card, tapped it once with her finger.

When the bird pecked the card once Helen rewarded JJ with some sunflower seeds.

The process was then repeated, until JJ recognised the pattern for two, then three, four, five, and six, and seven.

Smart JJ is now busy learning how to recognise the remaining cards in the pack.

Helen, a former training manger for as large catering company, said: “I spent years managing people, and training people how to manage – I can honestly say training JJ was much easier.

“She is really the most remarkable hen.

“She is currently trying to learn how to count to eight but she keeps getting a little confused.

“She will get there – she is our little Vorderman after all.

“JJ can be a little demanding, now that she has begun training she wants to do it all the time.”

Helen has been rescuing battery farm hens for the last 12 years after she and husband Justin decided on a lifestyle change, and moved to Norfolk to become gardeners.

The couple, who have helped rehabilitate more than 20 chickens over the years, were given an ill and feather-less JJ from an unknown battery farm last year.

She added: “JJ follows me around the garden as best she can but she is very disabled.

“When she first came to us we weren’t sure she would be able to be a free range hen because she would just walk into corners and get stuck.

“It was very obvious she had had a pelvis injury at some point and it had reset in the wrong place.

“But she’s a smart little thing, she taught herself her very own 21 point turn and she now bumbles around with the others quite nicely.

“She has a friend who only has one leg, who I’m hoping to try and teach to count so they can do it together.”

Jane Howorth the founder of the British Hen Welfare Trust said: “I am delighted, but not surprised to hear about JJ’s talents.

“Hens are underrated on so many levels and Helen’s patience and commitment to teaching JJ tricks just goes to show they are not the bird brains they are so often assumed to be.”

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