Cyber chicken

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- Credit: Archant

There are lots of weird and wonderful ‘facts’ about chickens online… but how much of it is true? Michelle Dunn investigates

There are three times as many chickens alive on the planet today as there are humans.

That’s an arresting fact, but is it true? We live in a digital age, and if you type something like ‘strange chicken facts’ into the internet you will find yourself in truly weird world where people claim their chickens have saved lives, laid seven eggs in one day or killed the family cat. Some of these things may be true and some most definitely are not, but how can you tell?

To test the ‘fact’ I started the article with, I searched for more articles about it. Cross referencing alone isn’t enough, as sometimes people post a shocking (and untrue) story which then gets re-posted by lots of lazy people who couldn’t be bothered to check the original story. What you’re looking for is the source information that all the stories are based upon, and then you can make a judgement on its reliability and potential bias. Research published by major chicken producers is unlikely to make the same points as research produced by an animal welfare organisation, even if they are both based on the same source data.

The internet can be a blessing - or a curse - if your chickens become ill. There is a lot of good advice on looking after ill chickens on the internet, but there is also a lot of absolute drivel, so beware. A reputable forum, like our very own ‘Your Chickens’ forum is a good place to start mining for the gold of chicken truth (http://forums.yourchickens.co.uk/forums/)

Back to my ‘fact’. It only took about 10 minutes to find that the source date was from the United Nations Farming and Agricultural Organisation. The figures they quoted are 19 billion chickens in the world, which is almost three chickens for every person alive. This data was published in 2011, but I found a later report from 2014 quoting over 20 billion chickens alive in the world today. The world human population has only recently passed the 7 billion mark. In short - according to reputable data-collecting organisations, there really are three times as many chickens alive today as humans.

Here’s one for you to try - chickens are the closest living relatives of the Tyrannosaurus rex. True or false? Off you go, and have fun!

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