Basic Chicken Behaviors

Basic Chicken Behaviors

Social and behavioral interactions of Chickens

            Chickens may seem like basic animals but they are unique and have complex social interactions and interesting behaviors. They are domesticated animals and prefer to be kept in groups called flocks. Before raising a chicken, it is very important to learn about them. Chickens need companionship and can make you apart of their family. However, they have very firm rules to be apart of their family.

            Typically, in the wild, chickens tend to form smaller flocks of about 12 to 15 birds with one rooster. In these flocks, there is a ranking order that is formed from the moment a chick hatch or whenever chickens are grouped together. This is the same for hens, hens have their own ranking system that is different from roosters. Hence, this method of ranking can become very difficult in larger flocks or if there is more than one rooster. Chicken in a large flock of 25 and up are more prone to fight periodically to maintain the ranking order. However, in small flocks, there is order and the hens are generally calm. 


Flock of Chickens by virtusincertus are licensed under CC BY 2.0


            In a chicken family, the dominant hen always eats first and get to pick where she wants to roost or lay eggs. The dominant hen will also be allowed to take food from the lesser-ranked hens. The second-ranked hen only looks up to the first hen and will only bow to the dominant(first) hen. This process follows a chain down the rank and so on. The roosters also have a ranking system of their own if there is more than one in a flock. Roosters are more aggressive than hens and will fight until a truce base on rank is established. They are even more aggressive in the presence of hens and will fight until the death of one of the roosters. Though, how aggressive they get depends on both the breed and the individuals within a breed. If there is a lot of hens and space, a truce can be formed where each rooster establish their own separate flock and ignore the other roosters.

            The rooster usually gets everything that he wants. He dominates the hens in his care and what he doesn’t want is a lot of squabbling among his flock. When there is a problem between the hens, he would step in and resolve the problem. Roosters can also be much smaller and younger than hens in the flocks, just as long as he behaves mature, he’s going to be the ruler of the flock. The rooster is very important and is the protector, guide, and lover to the hens. He would stand guard as the hens eat, lead them to good nesting spots and will also show them what to eat. The rooster also tends to have a favorite hen (The dominant one) and it is usually the dominant hen that he mates with more frequently with but not always. 

           Last, chickens have an interesting behavior of bathing in the dirt. They are able to make swallow holes in the ground that fit their body to lie in. When digging, they throw the soil from the hole into their fluffed-out feathers and then shake them to remove it. This behavior seems to make them very happy and control parasites on their bodies. The type of behaviors chickens preform is very hard to detect and will take a lot of observational studies to understand and interpret. 


Kimberly Willis, Robert T. Ludlow ht




Fenced Chickens by gina pina are licensed under CC BY 2.0

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