As any backyard chicken keeper knows, chickens are fascinating creatures with their own unique personalities and behaviours. Understanding their behaviour can help you provide better care and create a stronger bond with your flock.
Below, we’ll explore some common chicken behaviours and what they might be trying to tell you and learn to speak “chicken”.
Listen and Observe: The first step in understanding chicken communication is to listen to and observe your chickens. Pay attention to their vocalisations, body language, and behaviour, and try to identify patterns or changes in their behaviour.
Clucking: Clucking is a sign of contentment and relaxation, and can often be heard when chickens are sunbathing, preening, or resting. You can respond to your chickens’ clucking with a soothing tone of voice, which may help them feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Chickens are known to be vocal creatures, and their sounds can indicate different moods and needs. For example, clucking can signal contentment or the discovery of food, while squawking can indicate danger or discomfort. Roosters may crow to announce their presence or to warn of danger. Listen closely to your chickens’ vocalisations and try to identify their different sounds to understand what they are trying to communicate.
Squawking is a sign of agitation, stress, or danger. If your chickens are squawking, it’s important to investigate and identify the source of their distress. It could be a predator, an environmental hazard, or a social issue within the flock.
Body Language: Chickens use a variety of body language to communicate with each other and with humans. For example, flapping their wings can indicate excitement or frustration, while lowering their heads and puffing up their feathers can be a sign of aggression or dominance.
When a chicken puffs up its feathers, it can indicate several things. One of the most common reasons is that the chicken is cold and is trying to trap air between its feathers to stay warm. However, feather puffing can also signal that the chicken is feeling threatened or trying to assert dominance. Observe your chickens’ behaviour to determine what is causing the feather puffing and address any issues as needed.
Wing stretching is a common behaviour that chickens use to release tension and exercise their wings. It’s a healthy behaviour and not usually a cause for concern. Flapping can indicate excitement or frustration, while wing dipping can be a sign of submission or an attempt to cool down. However, if your chicken is constantly wing stretching or holding its wings in an abnormal position, it could be a sign of injury or illness.
Feeding Time: Chickens will often make a distinct clucking sound when it’s time to eat. You can reinforce this behavior by using a consistent call or whistle when you feed your chickens, which will help them associate the sound with food and come running when they hear it.
The behaviour of chickens before and after laying eggs can provide valuable insight into their health and well-being. For example, hens may become more vocal or restless before laying an egg, and may show signs of lethargy or illness if they are not laying eggs regularly.
Time to Roost: Chickens will often return to their roosting spot at dusk, and will make a distinct chirping sound when they are ready to settle in for the night. You can reinforce this behavior by providing a consistent signal or call when it’s time for your chickens to roost.
Chickens have a complex social hierarchy and establish a “pecking order” to determine their rank within the flock. This can lead to bullying and aggression, especially if there are too many chickens in a small space. Watch for signs of bullying, such as feather loss or aggression towards certain chickens, and take steps to reduce stress and aggression in your flock. Providing adequate space, nesting boxes, and perches can all help reduce stress and aggression in a flock. Introducing new chickens slowly and in a controlled manner can also help.
Understanding chicken behaviour is an important aspect of backyard chicken keeping. By listening to and observing your chickens, you can better understand their vocalisations, body language, and behaviour, and provide the best care possible. Remember to pay attention to the different sounds your chickens make, and observe their body language to determine their mood and needs. With patience and attention, you can learn to “speak chicken” and create a strong bond with your flock.