Polla Amiga asked this question recently, and I was stumped. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure they had tongues, and have decided that despite my curiosity, I am just not going to be prying open any beaks in the interest of science. That’s why we have the Internet, right? I found this photo on the Cornell Unversity veterinary web site, which is proof enough for me:
The short answer to the question of taste is yes, although as late as the 1950’s, many believed that chickens were not capable of taste, despite a 1906 report that differentiated between 30 and 70 taste buds in chickens. Since then, opinions have varied as to whether these taste buds, found on the base of the tongue and floor of the pharynx, are the only taste receptors in chickens because their taste preferences have been demonstrated to be more than basic in research.
Chickens are known to avoid saccharine and sweet flavors such as honey and strawberry, while sucrose and the butter-type flavors have been the only ones for which any preference has been shown (pass the popcorn?). Since most research on the subject has been conducted by adding flavorings to drinking water, some consider the findings to be of limited value. Compared to the count of 9,000 taste receptors for humans or 25,000 for a cow, chickens’ ability to taste would still be considered limited, and some chickens are reported to be “taste blind”.
My chickens have a taste for forbidden fruit. Whenever we give them free range opportunities, they head straight for the flowering maple bush we recently planted. I’ve told them over and over they can eat of anything else in the garden, but they go straight to the maple. Where have I heard this story before?