chicken behavior

Understanding Chicken Behavior, Chicken Body Language – The Complete Guide

In most cases, the flock owners feel confused about understanding their chicken’s behavior and chicken body language. Watching your chicken running, playing, and making noise is interesting.

But all these will become more fun to you if you know the meaning of your chicken’s sound, behavior, and body language. You can take better care of your flock by understanding their languages and behavior.

Chicken behavior includes dominance, space, illness, contentment, mating, alarms, preening, Tidbitting, etc. On the other hand, the typical chicken body languages are aggression, squatting, shivering, beak rubbing, feather-ruffling, companionship, etc.

However, keep reading! There are many more behaviors and body language of your chickens except the above. All these we will explain in detail in this article.

Chicken Behavior – All You Need To Know

By knowing the specific behavior of chickens, you can understand the meaning of their action and the motive behind them. Numerous chicken behavior indicates different things. Now one by one, we will explain the details of them. Read it thoroughly and learn the facts:

1. Dominance

The males and females chicken follows the complex social hierarchy of pecking order. Male and female hens track individual and specific social status. And other members of the flock follow this social status.

However, these social dynamics affect the flock’s activities like drinking, feeding, mating, egg laying, dust bathing, roosting, etc. Often the dominant chicken’s sharp peck on the neck and head established pecking order leadership.

The other dominant signs are the chest puffed out and the head held high. However, in small flocks, the competition is not that necessary.

2. Space, Illness & Contentment

Chickens, in an expert way, hide their illness symptoms. But by seeing the body language of your hens, you will understand that something is incorrect. Some illness signs are feathers ruffles, neck drawn in, tail down, and standing hunched.

Sometimes, your hens can communicate with you by displaying their body language. They just tried to communicate with you to say that they are fed up or ill. However, many flock owners can easily understand the signs of chickens as they are familiar with the personalities of their flock.

The only way of communicating your flock with you is through their body language. Some chicks stand firmly while the other stay on the lap. After sitting on the lap, your chicken will relax. And its whole body will feel relaxed.

The social antics of chickens are complex. The dominant females and head rooster remain close. On the other hand, the subordinate hens remain close to the periphery. After establishing the pecking order, even the chickens become aware of their personal space.

3. Mating

In connection with the food discovery, male chicken performs complex. Collectively the prominent series of actions is called the mating. The female squat will come over to take the food pieces. On the other hand, rhythmically, the dominant rooster repeats the head and neck movement. This way, the rooster picks up the food item and drops it. 

A subordinate male usually doesn’t seduce the mate. According to the research, the dominant males respond in response to the food calling of subordinates. And then, the dominant rooster chases away the subordinate and displays aggression.

The subordinate male chicks then perform the visual part of dropping and picking the food in front of the attentive rooster. Once the dominant chick becomes distracted, the subordinate chick alerts the females.

4. Alarms

Chicken often conveys specific information in combination with vocal sounds and body language. Other chickens easily understand this language and sound. The alarm call alerts the entire flock about the predators. 

Without listening to the birds, the chickens can understand the language sometimes by seeing the predators. Once the bird alarm gives the danger direction, other chickens soon respond to it. The other flock members react to the warning by scanning the horizon, standing erect, and may flee for cover to the nearby trees. 

Using ambush techniques, the grand predators hunt. Once the predator detects the hens, then they terminate the hunting. So openly displaying awareness is essential for the flock. The aerial predator attack at speed. The flock adopts a slightly different tactic to get rid of this attack. 

5. Preening

The way of combing the chicken’s hair is preening. The preen gland is located in the tail base’s back. Over the individual feathers, your bird will run its beak to help to knit the feather together. While preening, from the preen gland, your chicken also spreads the oil. 

The oil makes your chicken’s feathers water-resistant and glossy. To help the feathers coat, your chicken in the oil gland will often rub their heads. Most chicken usually starts preening daily. And sometimes it becomes the flock activity. 

6. Mounting & Trading

When the roosters mating with a hen, their activity is called mounting. Excessive treading and mounting can cause feather loss in your chicken. The roosters often mate with their favorite hens. As a result, it causes bald patches on the hen’s back and head.

Sometimes, the roosters force the hen to mate or become overaggressive in mating. In this case, you must separate that rooster from the flock to prevent overstressing.

7. Tidbitting

When the rooster finds something tasty and wants to share it with his hens, this behavior is called Tidbitting. In this way, roosters provide or share food or something with their flock. If food is abundant, the wild roosters also engage in this behavior.

During Tidbitting, the roosters make clucking noises repetitively and often pick up the food particle. Also, sometimes the roosters in the flock continually drop the food until the hens consume the food. However, the mother chicken, to encourage her chicks to eat new food, often do Tidbitting.

8. Courting

Another part of the mating ritual of the rooster is courting. Courting may or may not be associated with mating with the hen. During courting, the rooster does a shuffle dance in the hen’s front and drops his wing.

By ignoring the rituals of courting, the hen can refuse to mate. Sometimes the roosters straightly follow mating by totally skipping the courting. However, in the case of mating, the polite rooster pays attention to the hen’s desire.

9. Sunbathing

To get different health benefits and escape the parasites, chickens often sunbathe. Sunbathing contains absorbing vitamin D. Your chicken lays its side to the sun during sunbathing. And then raise its neck and head feathers by spreading one wing out. Your birds optimize the position to get more sunlight through the feathers. 

Sunbathing is a good way of staying healthy and managing parasites. Often, flock owners make mistakes by seeing the chicken sunbathing in the yard and thinking they are dying. But relax, don’t get afraid. They are just taking vitamins from the sun’s rays. 

10. Brooding

Your hen’s behavior of hatching eggs and raising chicks is called brooding. The broody hen does brooding. A broody hen stops laying eggs and remains in the nesting box.

When any hen or human tries to approach her, she can growl, hiss and peck. The broody hen flattens itself close to the nest, fluffs its feathers, and pulls out its breast feathers.

11. Flying

Almost every flock owner is familiar with the flying behavior of their chickens. Even the young age chicks want to taste their flying ability. But unfortunately, in the bird’s kingdom, chickens are not the best flyers.

Only at short distances can the chicken fly using its wings. Some chicken breeds fly more than others. Compared to the heavy species, light breeds fly better.

12. Dust Bathing

The way of taking a bath of your chicken is called dust bathing. Once your chicken finds the loose dirt area, then proceed to lay in the dirt. Then over their body and feathers, they kick the dirt using their feet.

The entire dust bathing procedure involves feather rotating, fluffing, pecking, and rolling at the dirt. Your chickens, through dust bathing, clean their feathers and manage the external parasites. The fine dirt particles help your chicken to control the external parasite issues.

Usually, hens love the dust bathing in flocks. Depending on the weather and the available dirt type flock prefers different areas for dust bathing.

13. Pecking

Through pecking, the chicken explores its world. For moving the objects, exploring new things, fighting, and establishing hierarchy, your birds are pecking. More specifically, when your chicken is eating, foraging, or sampling fresh foods, the pecking occurs in a more innocent form. Also, sometimes chickens use pecking to give warnings, fight, and defend.

14. Bullying

Different behaviors of your chickens are collectively called bullying. Repeatedly targeting another chicken in the flock is the most common form of bullying. The bully hen behavior also includes being a water and food hog. Sometimes your entire chicken flock can start bullying the sick, weak, or injured bird in the gang. 

They do so to keep the other hens in the flock safe and healthy.  Bullying disturbs the stable pecking order’s peace. More likely, the bottom flock members of the pecking order become the victims of bullying.

15. Roosting

The perching behavior of your chicken on a nightly basis is called roosting. Roosting and perching are similar terms. But commonly, roosting refers to the flock’s nightly perching habits. Roosting is a typical behavior of the chicken with which the flock owner becomes familiar quickly.

To roost, your chickens usually look for a protected and elevated area. Teach your chicken that for roosting on a nightly basis, a coop is an inappropriate place. Provide coop training to your flock to teach them so.

16. Panting

The panting behavior of your chicken necessarily indicates that your flock is experiencing heating stress. To increase the airflow, your chicken will pant.

The typical panting behavior is when your bird holds its wings out from its body. This behavior indicates that your chicken is trying to cool off as it becomes too hot.

17. Foraging

Chicken’s most natural behavior is foraging. Your birds do this when looking for food. Foraging behavior involves scratching away leaves, dirt, and grass, pecking at the ground, etc. By lowering the head, your chickens slowly wander over an area for tasty morsels.

Your birds can forage in their enclosure, coop, or free range. Specifically, in the case of food, some individuals or breeds are inclined to be better foragers than other chickens.

18. Fighting

Every chicken keepers are familiar with their flock’s fighting behavior. And the flock owners want to avoid their birds this behavior. For a co-existing and peaceful flock, avoiding this behavior of chickens is necessary.

Usually, your chickens will fight to defend territory, establish hierarchy and protect the flock members. Not only the roosters fight but also the hens do so. Hens fight for the nesting boxes, roosting spots, hierarchy position, chicks, etc.

A fighting chicken takes a concentrated and intimidating appearance by raising its hackle feathers. As the fight continues, pecking, wing flapping, progressing, jumping, spurring, and mauling may occur.

19. Sparring

Usually, the young cockerels engage in sparring activity to establish hierarchy when they become mature. Basically, in establishing dominance, sparring serves a crucial role.

Be sure your flock is sparring when young cockerels raise the heckle feathers, face off and jump with each other.

Chicken Body Language – The Detailed Explanation

Compared to reading the body language of dogs and horses, reading the body language of chickens is difficult. The behavior and body language of your chicken are closely related. Therefore if you fail to understand your bird’s particular behavior, seeing the body language, you will realize that. 

1. Aggression

Typically the aggressive posture includes lowering the head slightly with direct and concentrated eye contact. The chicken gives a more imposing look by raising the feathers on the body with the neck feathers.

Also, your chicken can drop down and hold out the wings to add more appearance. Your chicken displays aggressive body language to the predators, other chickens in the flock, and humans.

2. Squatting

A hen will create a flat by lowering the crouch to the ground and slightly holding the wings shoulder. The young pullets sometimes show squatting body language to indicate that they have reached the egg-laying stage.

Through the squatting body language, the hens tell the roosters that she wants to mate with him.

3. Shivering

The natural response of the chicken body is shivering. Sometimes in cold weather, the body temperature of your chicken starts lowering. Visually you can experience that your chicken is shivering.

Your chicken’s lethargic behavior with slight body vibrations and fluffed feathers indicates your bird is shivering. More severe cold stress is the first sign of shivering.

4. Beak Rubbing

An exciting body behavior that often your chicken do is beak rubbing. When the bird swipes its beak over a hard surface multiple times, it’s called beak rubbing.

5. Feather Ruffling

After puffing up all the feathers, your chicken will give a little shake. The thorough shaking out of all feathers by a chicken is called feather-ruffling. Birds, through feather-ruffling, fulfill several purposes.

After sunbathing, your chickens often do the feather ruffling in the remaining dirt particles.

6. Companionship

When your birds seek the company of the chicken keeper or another chicken, it’s called companionship. A very general term and behavior is companionship. This body language includes curious posture, friendly behavior, welcoming actions, etc.

7. Protecting

The aggressive body language often overlaps with the protective body language. When your chicken becomes protective, it becomes aggressive too. The protective body language includes holding out and dropping down the wings, puffing up the chicken feathers, growling, and hisses.

What Is The Behavior Of A Happy Chicken?

Most people think that the thinking ability of chickens is significantly less. They are different and not like monkeys or dogs. But chicken poses exciting behavior. Actually, the behavior of chickens is more complicated than we can think.

Now, here we will tell you how the happy chicken behaves. So let’s take a look at it:

Happy Body Language

You can quickly observe your chicken’s general well-being and health by seeing the body language. The healthy and happy chickens are confident enough, and they are self-starters. The happy chickens always remain alert.

Moreover, healthy chickens are curious enough. Actively the happy chickens hunt for food, socialize with the flock’s other members, and take the dust bath.

A Happy Chicken Sings A Unique Tune

Each noise has a unique purpose whenever you see your chicken making noises or rhyme. Over 30 distinct vocalizations, your chickens communicated with a wide range of information. 

Chickens make different noises for nesting, danger or fear, distress pertaining to territory, food and contentment discovery, etc. By creating other rhymes and sounds, your flock can have great insights into their needs and feelings. However, the 4 common happy noises that generally chicken make are: 

1. Buck-Buck-Buck: After and before laying an egg, the hen makes the buck-buck-buck sound. This joyful sound gives the successful laying cycle alerts to the other birds. 

2. Crowing: By making the crowing sound, the happy rooster wakes his flock by showing his supremacy in the coop. Usually following the day’s first crow, the chickens continue singing. 

3. Purring: Your chicken makes a purring sound out of contentment. Often you will see that while your chickens are dust bathing in the yard, they are making a purring sound. 

4.  Singing Together: Suddenly, all your chickens can start a pleasant cluck or singing together. One will start the singing session. And the other will join the session in a row. 

What Is The Behavior Of A Sad Chicken?

Just like the happy chicken, the behavior of your sad bird differs. The sad behaviors are: 

Depressed Body Language

The sad chicken exhibit more lethargic behaviors when it feels bad. If you find any chicken in the flock is not active or busy, then be sure there is something wrong. Usually, these chickens don’t have vibrant personalities and carry their head low. 

Moreover, sometimes they become slow-moving and are not much active. The slow chickens are neutral about taking caring themselves. However, when other chickens felt that one chicken was sick or not well, the flock preyed on the weakness of that chicken. 

Over Aggressive

The overly aggressive behavior of your chicken is another sign that your chick is not in a good mood. Out of stress, your chicken can do aggressive behavior. The pecking order of chicken is unavoidable and natural. But aggressive chickens, due to the scarcity, feel meaner than the average chicken. 

To reduce the aggression and stress of chickens, ensure that they have enough of everything. Make sure there is plenty of food, space, and sunlight available for your chickens. The birds become kinder to each other when they don’t need to compete for their needs. 

Chicken Sing Sad Songs

The emotion of chicken is quite complex compared to just sad or happiness. Besides being happy and sad, they can feel alarmed, fearful, cautious, and possessive. The chickens communicate with their flock in their ways. If something is wrong, then chickens in the flock actively alert each other. 

So periodically hearing different sounds from the flock is normal. But if you ever experience your chicken making noise continuously, that means they are stressed, unsafe and unhappy. 

1. Kuh-Kuh-Kuh-khu-KACK: Your birds make this sound as a predator alert. Chickens made their flock mates aware and told them to protect themselves and take cover from the impending danger. 

2. A Loud Shriek: If your chicken makes a loud shriek by looking at the sky, that means your bird has spotted a predator in the sky. Hearing such a sound, all the chickens in the flock soon cover themselves. 

3. Startled Squawk: When your chicken felt hurt suddenly, it started making this sound. Whenever you hear the sound, immediately check your chicken. And also ensure it’s not a severe injury. Sometimes the bird’s foot may get stuck in the fence, or it was pecked. 

4. Hiss: Chicken told you to get out of their way by giving the warning sound “Hiss.” It’s a territorial sound. When your birds make too many hiss sound in the coop, that means they are feeling stressed. Or your birds lack enough resources and space. 

Final Words

Understanding chicken behavior and chicken body language are complex. Your chicken can react when it becomes happy, sad, depressed, attacked, or out of food. You have to research and practically observe your flock to understand their behavior or language. 

Now, after researching and going through this article, you will understand the inner meaning of their behavior or language. We have already explained everything in this comprehensive guide. Now, if you have anything to ask, comment in the comment box. And we will reply ASAP.

Raising Chickens 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Get started in chicken raising with our expert-approved guide. From building a coop to hatching eggs, you’ll learn all the essential information you need to know. Topics include selecting breeds, caring for chicks, increasing egg production, and more. We also cover chicken feeds, behavior, disease prevention, and essential vitamins and minerals. Follow this guide for a successful and fulfilling experience.

Want to learn more about chicken raising? Check out our beginner’s guide below for even more tips and information:

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