- Big, fluffy butts
- Big looking bodies on skinny legs
- Awkward gates
- Funny noises
- No shame
- Who wouldn’t want one as a pet!
I think people tend to discount how much personality birds have. But when you see your chickens running up to you in that awkward fashion you can’t help but smile. They have so many different mannerisms and clucks, all it takes is some time spent in their company to see how quirky and intelligent they can be….and freakin’ hilarious!
So what do chickens do that is so entertaining?
1) If you spend enough time with your chickens, they learn one key thing about you: You are the food giver! This leads to many a fun interaction with them:
- They run up to you as soon as you show up
- They look at you expectingly making “OMG she’s got treats” noises
- They climb on you or peck at you and eat from your hand
2) If you are familiar with keeping other birds, you know about bird body language. Here are some examples that can enrich your experience with your chickens, knowing what mood they are in:
- Tail Wagging = Happy Yes, chickens wag their tails when they are happy!
- Fluffing Out = Happy/Relaxing Like one big sigh, they will fluff out and shake all of their feathers
- Preening = Relaxed/Secure Very sweet to watch them all do it together, especially in your presence-they trust you!
- Looking at You Sideways Chickens and other prey birds don’t see well strait on, so when they really want to check something out they use one eye sideways. You can always try looking at a chicken sideways to help put them at ease instead of head on like a predator. I also see my chickens looking up sideways if they see a large bird flying by, being on the outlook for the many hawks we have.
- Blinking and Closing Their Eyes = Secure You know a bird is secure in your presence if they fall asleep in-front of you. Like with looking sideways, if you blink at them, this may help put them at ease. One trust building exercise you always do with a parrot is looking sideways, blinking and talking softly to them, keeping very still until they blink back and even fall asleep.
- Roosting on You = Secure/Dominant Chickens want to be as high up as everyone else while roosting. More dominant chickens may want to roost on your shoulder. This may be fun but can lead to the chicken thinking they are dominant over you. So try to keep any bird below your eye level to avoid bad behavior later.
- Sitting in Your Lap = Secure/Friendly While not always something they like, I’ve had some chickens completely relax into my arms while on my lap. I wouldn’t say this is common, but many chickens will roost on your lap and maybe allow petting.
- Squatting = Submissive If a chickens suddenly squats down when you come upon them, feel flattered. They are submitting to you and your awesomeness. Naturally this behavior is a hen submitting to a rooster for matting, but can also show dominance/submission behavior among hens.
How to Pet a Chicken
- Make sure the chicken is used to you and comfortable in your presence
- Be already sitting/at their level
- Make sure they can see your hand approaching from below slowly. Don’t surprise them
- Start at the nape of the neck or the chest
- If they start to move away, stop, try again later when they are relaxed, a little bit at a time
- Remember some chickens will never tolerate petting
3) Some other fun behaviors chickens have are:
- Dust Bathing You have to see this one in action! It is especially cute when baby chicks do it. This is a very healthy behavior where chickens stir up dirt/dust they are sitting in all over themselves to get rid of parasites. They also usually do it as a group, so make sure they have a nice big space for it. The video below shows my pullets all trying to dust bath in the same spot!
- Sun Bathing Usually this is a very elegant looking pose: The chickens leaning to one side with one wing outstretched, eyes closed, like they are at a spa! Sometimes however they will lay completely on their side like my chicken Stella here, lol!
- Going to Roost People always look at me funny when I mention “chickens put themselves to bed!” But when you have to lock up the coop at night to prevent predators from getting in, it makes it so easy! When it starts to get dark, the hens will meander to the coop, have a before-bed meal, and then go to roost!
- Scratching for Bugs While it may be obvious that chickens do this, I love watching them. Plus it is super cute when you see baby chicks doing it, just like the big girls! This can also be very helpful with gardening. Not only can they keep bad bugs at bay but we’ve let them turn soil in a bed that needs planting.
Now of course certain breeds and individual birds have different personalities. However, there are breeds that tend to be friendlier and not so skittish as other breeds. But all can be entertaining and make great pets!
If you’re interested in more info on keeping chickens, my favorite site is BackyardChickens.Com. It is a great resource and they respond very quickly to questions.