Chicken Behavior: Don’t Call Them Birdbrains!
There’s no end to how much can be said about understanding chicken behavior. Chickens are downright fascinating to watch and get to know. And don’t for one minute think they are dumb. They have the memory and smarts of a young child and are beyond rewarding to have in your life.
- Chickens are very social creatures. They will gladly share a nest and will roost together.
- Like humans, your flock will display a great variation in behavior and temperament. Certain breeds will act one way and an individual bird will come with its own set of traits.
- Chickens have their own vocabulary. Some say there are up to 30 different sounds!
- Believe it or not, they can be trained to perform tricks. Much to the delight of kids of all ages.
Social creatures that they are, they like doing all their daily activities together. And they are happy in a flock of up to 30 birds. So you will notice them leaving the chicken coop at the same time. They will eat, drink and bathe together. They’ll huddle close to each other on a roost and there are some hens who will even nest and lay their eggs side by side.
And just like us, given that they are living together, they will have their little annoyances with each other. These could escalate into a real squabble but will quickly be forgotten. Sound familiar?
Having a cozy nesting box provides your hens with privacy to lay her eggs. They like this to be in a darkened, out-of-the-way location. But don’t be surprised or alarmed if you see one laying an egg right in the middle of the chicken coop floor. All she needs is to be able to gather nesting material to suit herself and away she goes.
(This breaks our hearts when we think of those poor caged hens in factory settings. Just imagine the stress they are under, living in those quarters and not being able to live their god-given, natural way of life!)
You may see several of the girls share a nest at the same time and even hatch their eggs together. And raise them like a commune.
With dusk, comes the urge to roost. Roosting is an ingrained behavior and if no roosts are available, the birds will become agitated. And we all want stress-free chickens! And they want a good night’s sleep.
No matter how small the chicken coop is, you can have enough roosts for all your flock since they don’t mind being close to each other. This is also the way for the submissive birds in the pecking order, to stay away from the dominant birds. Now all the flock can sleep peacefully. And not to worry. Their little feet are very adapted to be able to close around the perch, even when sleeping.
If chickens are in an environment where they can’t forage, they will be highly stressed out. They simply must wander around and snoop for food. It doesn’t matter if you supply them with their fill of good food. They have to forage. It’s just a natural behavior which they love. So watch them hunt and peck, scratch and do the chicken dance to their heart’s content.
Preening and Dust Bathing
Read my previous post about chicken baths to learn why it is important for chickens to be able to clean themselves and how you can keep your chickens happy by providing them with a dust bath.
There’s such fun watching and listening to your flock. You will swear that they seem to be having very serious conversations with each other. Especially between mother hens and their chicks.
What a range of clucking, cackling, crowing and chirping! The people who study how chickens communicate, tell us there are up to 30 sounds and each one have a different meaning. If you pay close attention, in time, you’ll begin to understand some of the chicken speak.
A mother hen can get her chick to talk even before it is hatched. Days-old chicks are just like human babies. By vocalizing, they will let you know how they feel. Hot, cold, hungry or a very happy camper.
Roosters and hens have different sounds for warning of predators or letting the flock in on the secret of finding a scrumptious meal. Hens always cackle after laying an egg! I would too!
If you’ve had chickens for any length of time, you know for certain what interesting creatures they are to have around and to observe!
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