Among the definition the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives for chicken, one of them is coward. Chicken is a well known insult when someone is backing away from a fight or not willing to take on a battle. And yet, are chickens really deserving of that?
Chickens, like many other birds, are prey animals. Even though chickens are the closest living ancestor to the T-Rex alive today, they are prey. Raccoons find them especially tasty, as do foxes and stray dogs. Their eyes are on the sides of their head so they can look out for predators, and in the evenings, it’s very easy to herd them back into their coop. They tend to run away from you, so if they’re in a confined run, you can send them toward the door and in they go.
While the hens may be more timid than the roosters, the truth is if he’s so inclined, a rooster will attack you. Anyone who had gotten hit by an aggressive rooster (the few we’ve had here have gone to “freezer camp”) knows that spurs and even the edges of feathers can cause some damage. Roosters protect their territory and their hens. They’re not passive. They also fight each other.
When left to free range a chicken prefers to hide from predators, running into the woods or back into a coop. However given that the average chicken has fewer weapons against a predator, I say that doesn’t make it a coward. That makes it smart.