All About Chickens: Understanding Chicken Behavior
We all behave in certain ways. Humans do and so do chickens. If you familiarize yourself with the way chickens behave, you can understand their basic needs and cater to them accordingly.
This is where the chickens work it out amongst themselves. There’s no point in trying to intervene. There’s a dominant hen and she will and can peck any chicken that is below her. The second in line can peck any hen below them but NOT the one above them! Pity the bird at the bottom of the totem pole. They can and are pecked by all of the flock! Not fair!
As strange as it appears, the system does work. Once the flock has established its pecking order, it can co-exist in peace and harmony. Introducing a new bird upsets this order and the new addition may be bullied. It’s best to add more than one hen at a time because this can ease matters.
Put them in an enclosure first so they can become acquainted while looking through safety wire. Then it’s good to introduce them into an area with a lot of space so the new hens can escape the bullying behavior. Make sure you provide extra hiding places and perches around the run so the hens can get away to peace and safety. If things get out of hand, try removing the dominant bird to a new environment until the newcomers become established.
Yes, all chicken breeds crow but some are nosier than others. Believe it or not, the larger breeds tend to have a pleasanter-sounding crow. And if you believe roosters only crow at dawn, perish that thought. They crow throughout the day. And it’s most likely they are crowing for the same reason that our songbirds sing at dawn. Not, as we like to believe, for the joy of singing, but to see if any neighboring bird didn’t make it through the night and may have left prime real estate for them to move into!!!
Roosters will also crow in defiance and to let others know danger has passed. If they hear another rooster crow, they will answer with a blast of their own. You see how it can become quite noisy! If noisy roosters are driving you crazy, you can remove the offending birds to a dark box at night and return them to the run at a more suitable hour in the morning. To help dull the sound of the roosters, you can plant bamboo and conifers around their habitat. Low-toned wind chimes can help as well.
Chickens, also, have many different vocalizations. It is informative to learn to recognize the sounds. Hens have a soft, growling sound when broody. They cackle when they have just laid an egg. (so would I!) And they make a “took, took” sound to call their chicks to come and eat. Chickens will let off with a screech when alarmed. (same as I do) They make a burring sound to tell others about danger.
If a rooster finds an interesting treat, he will let the chickens know all about it. Now the hen isn’t clueless. She knows he has more on his mind than those treats. There are some roosters that will be gentlemanly all year round but the majority will be using treats for one reason only!
If the hen comes near and accepts the food, the rooster will then prance around the hen with one wing dropped, before attempting to move in for action. If the hen accepts his advances, she will squat to allow mating to take place. Hens that are not ready to fall for the rooster’s advances, will grab the treat and then take off like a bat out of hell so they can’t be caught! LOL!
Spring and summer is the breeding season and some males can become very aggressive. For adults, it may be amusing but for children this behavior can be startling as the bird is batting furiously all over the place and could attack anyone within range.
Unfortunately, the aggressive birds are most in demand because they are the most virile and fertile. Unless needed for breeding, large fowl that are very aggressive are best suited to be on our dinner plates. This is because they hit too hard, jump too high and can cause injury.
To cure the habits of antisocial birds, many people throw water on them or dip them in a bucket of water. Others suggest cuddling. But these are temporary measures as the birds are soon back to their “beat up the human” game.
When you need to catch that aggressive bird, hold a coat in front of you to protect yourself and as the bird approaches, throw it over them. Pin the bird to the ground inside of the coat. If you don’t want the bird to breed, put it in an enclosure that you don’t need to go into often.
Do not pass on an aggressive male to an innocent buyer without telling them all about the bird’s temperament. Good on you!
As much as this distresses me, it can be a problem. If you collect your eggs on a regular basis, which you should, you are less likely to have this problem of egg eating. This can be infuriating. No sooner has the hen laid an egg and she will peck it open and eat its contents.
Not only that, but when other hens see that behavior, they start to copy it! You must intervene right away. If not, you will have the whole flock gobbling up their eggs. Don’t let your hens find out how good the eggs taste! If you can find out which hen is doing this, remove her from the enclosure so she can’t teach the other hens the bad behavior.
To prevent egg eating, make sure the nestbox is in the darkest part of the henhouse and facing away from any window. This makes it harder for them to see the eggs. You can make these boxes darker by hanging material over the boxes.
Make sure the wood shavings in the nest boxes are deep. 3-4 inches deep. Fluff up the shavings. This way the eggs will settle down and become less visible to the chickens. You can also leave a few fake eggs around the chicken run. This will discourage the hens.
Chickens are just as quirky as humans. To study and understand their behavior can go a long way in understanding and loving our feathered friends.
Filed under: General Information
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