The spatial contrast sensitivity (CSF) of the chicken has been measured using a behavioural technique. The results obtained show that spatial vision in this species is relatively poor compared with the human observer. For a visual stimulus luminance of 16 cd m−2, the upper frequency limit of spatial vision in the chicken (acuity) was found to be about 7.0 c deg−1, with peak spatial vision occurring at around 1.0 c deg−1. Under equivalent stimulus conditions, the acuity of the human is around 50 c deg−1 with a peak in spatial vision at about 3.0 c deg−1. Peak spatial contrast sensitivity in the chicken was also found to be only about 2% that for the human. At a lower stimulus luminance of 0.1 cd m−2, the chicken CSF reduced in overall magnitude and indicated an acuity level of about 5.0 c deg−1. These experimental results were successfully modelled using modulation transfer (MTF) theory. This theoretical treatment enabled important neural mechanisms underlying spatial vision in the chicken to be revealed. The role played by spatial vision in the chicken's ability to recognise detailed shapes in its visual environment was also examined by deploying the CSF as a visual weighting function with the Fourier series of a chicken comb.