Do Chickens See Colors?

People often wonder what their chickens see. It’s so obvious that a hen can spy a tiny bug, or a shiny speck that we humans would never notice, and likely couldn’t see even if we tried. But, what about color?

The short answer is yes, chickens see color. The longer answer is complicated science (geeks continue reading here and here.)

In fact, chickens see a wider range of color than us. We have three cones which enable us to see red, blue, green, and variations thereof. Chickens have another cone that detects ultraviolet light. They also have a double cone that likely enables them to detect motion. To make their color vision even sharper, they have a special structure that adds an oily drop to the cones, which helps them to filter out all but a particular range of light.


hen face

Perhaps feather color is so extravagant and important to our chickens because their world is so vibrantly colorful. Certainly it’s why chickens are so drawn to bright things. I’ve learned not to paint my toenails red and then go into the coop in sandals! What colorful things are your hens attracted to?


chicken eye


  1. Purple gardening gloves, I wear two stoned rings, one ruby, one amethyst – both get regularly pecked at, and yes, nail varnish.

  2. Our hens love my daughter’s glitter covered shoes!

  3. Makes me think I should paint the inside of their coop

  4. Never noticed before that their eyes have an orange ring. Love the stories about manicures, pedicures and jewelry. Bet there isn’t much in your vintage chicken keeping library on that topic! Live and learn.

  5. Awesome photos, just beautiful! And interesting facts about their eyes and vision!

  6. I have an old pair of tear-away pants that I sometimes wear into the coop or run. They have lots of shiny chrome buttons running down the outside of each leg, and one hen in particular is fascinated by them.

    • Oh yes, my butt has been pecked many a time by the girls going after the rivets on my jeans.

      • Hey! That must be why ‘Little Mo’ always pecks my rear when I’m bending into the corn bin to give he ladies a treat! Never thought about that!!! Thanks for solving my conundrum!

  7. The grommets on my cargo pants, my diamond ring, toenails – even without nail polish. Heaven help me if I were to wear sandals with red toenail polish!

  8. Henny is always pecking at my diamond ring. I keep telling her that she will be kept in isolation if she ever gets a hold of it but that doesn’t seem to deter her in the least.

  9. I stopped wearing earrings because Dotty used to sit on my shoulder and quick as lightening pull them out. They love it when I wear a colourful flowery dress and will peck at the pattern and in winter peck at the zip on my fleece. Also my coop boots have a shiny plastic bow which gets attention too. Anything shiny always gets a peck.

  10. Years ago I had a pet barred rock rooster who was a very docile, sometimes lap-chicken, who would flare up and attack me with spurs when I emerged from the house wearing my dark plaid or printed floral skirts (my Laura Ashley days). I had to wear my high rain boots. It had something to do with the “threatening” movement of the fabric I suppose, too.

  11. I once put polka dots on my nails, and also have put a bunny on my thumb. That set off Speckles and Princess Peach into a peck frenzy. Speckles has also gone after little silver gems on my sweatpants, and glitter on sandals. She actually ate a hairtie off of my sister’s wrist (it was white), silly girls!

    King Richard (the rooster) seems to not like blue. He has gotten frightened by a blue tarp, and threatened by us if we come in with a blue piece of clothing. Then again, he’s been really mean lately. ;)

  12. I’m enjoying everyone’s comments! RE: diamonds and earrings – I know someone who’s hen pecked a diamond earring right off her ear, and then swallowed it. Yes, the hen was quarantined, and the poo was looked through! The diamond was found, but the gold setting must have been ground up and digested. Proves that diamonds are even tougher than a gizzard.

  13. I once wrote a post which I titled “Dotty has a pair of earrings” after she had taken two gold studs and swallowed them. I switched to earrings with a tiny blue sapphire and one of them went too so I gave up wearing earrings. I never found any remains. What amazed me was her speed and accuracy, she managed to pull them from ear through the earring back without hurting me (I barely felt it at all).

  14. Every day I wear a carnelian bracelet. One of the stones had a shiny black spot, they are forefer picking at it , I guess wondering what it is.

  15. Know anything about duck vision? I thought, but proved myself wrong that chickens won’t see red light The proof was when their pupils closed when a red light shined on their eyes: I was trying not to disturb them when I had to retrieve an item from their coop at night. Failed. Had to do it a couple nights ago, and thought I would experiment again: when the red light shined, the ducks just lost their mind and started flapping everywhere until I switched to white light. Anyway, thanks for the links. I found the info an excellent read.

  16. Love the idea that chickens can suffer from colour blindness too and we can do things to help, thank you for sharing!

    • I’ve heard from another lady who has chickens that they’ll destroy the tomato if it has a tiny black speck on the skin. Probably justifies how hens will pick at the injured one…

  17. I’m new to keeping hens, just 4 months. I have lost a pearl earring to a neighbour’s hen. Great to know about the coloured sight of hens – I was curious whether it was smell or sight in that the excitement of the hens varied depending on what food I was offering. I usually wear blue gardening gloves, initially I thought it was the colour of the gloves. Then I thought it was the plastic bucket. Then I thought it was the routine. So I varied everything but they still recognize their favourite scraps…