Understanding the Basic Behaviors of Your Chicken
Once you bring home a chicken, you may be confused about how they should behave. Unless you have been raised on a farm or around other animals most of your life, it can be confusing to know whether a certain behavior is normal or not. In this chapter, we will take some time to explore the normal behaviors of your new pets and what you should concentrate on for raising them right.
Watching your flock of chickens can be really entertaining. Most of the time you will notice that chickens have a lot of complex interactions with other chickens and a lot of interesting behaviors. Just like other domesticated animals, you will notice that chickens are the happiest when they are able to stay in a group, especially a group of their own kind.
Without knowing more about these behaviors, you are going to have a hard time figuring out how to raise them properly. While raising chickens can be a great hobby to try out, whether you choose to raise them for egg production, meat, or just as pets, it is important for you to learn how to recognize certain behaviors and take good care of your chickens.
First off, we will look at how chickens act when they are sleeping. You will notice that when your chickens go to sleep, they will really fall asleep. Simply by making an area completely dark, your chickens are going to fall into a stupor. This is why they become such an easy target for predators because once it gets dark, they are not going to try and escape from anything or defend themselves.
Since the chickens are vulnerable to this issue when they are sleeping, they are going to roost off the ground during sleeping. This is why most coops are going to have a roost that is up a few feet to make the chickens feel a little more comfortable. Chickens also like to fall asleep in the same spot so you will notice that once the chickens recognize the coop as their new home, they will automatically go back there if they’ve escaped during the day or if you allow them to roam.
One tip to remember is that when catching your chickens, wait until it is dark. During the day the chicken may be more willing to wander around and can be a little bit hard to catch. But at night, the chickens are going to fall into that stupor and go to sleep. This means they aren’t going to run around and if you go out a bit after dark with some flashlights, you will be able to catch them without issues.
Socializing Behaviors of Chickens
When it comes to your chicken, it is going to be all about the family. This means that you do not want to purchase just one chicken unless you are fine with the chicken making you a part of the family. Most chickens are happiest when they are in a flock and are able to socialize with other similar chickens.
This being said, chickens do have some special rules that they follow when it comes to forming their own flocks or family. In the wild, chickens are going to form into small flocks, usually with no more than 15 birds being in the very largest of flocks. Out of each of these flocks in the wild, there will only be one rooster.
The ranking system in the flock is going to begin right when the chick hatches, or when the chickens are put together in your backyard. The hens will follow their own kind of ranking system that is different from the roosters and it will not be long before each member of this group knows where it belongs. Of course, there may be some times when squabbling or battles will occur during this time. The best way to keep these to a minimum is to just have one rooster in place and there are fifteen or fewer chickens all together.
Order is really important when it comes to the flock. For example, the dominant hen is the one who gets to eat first, is the first one to pick where she would like to lay her eggs or roost, and can take away food from the lower ranked hens. And then they go down in the ranking from there. If the flocks have enough space and are small enough, the hens will usually avoid issues with fighting and will simply pick the order and go about their daily life.
Roosters are also going to establish a kind of ranking system, especially if there is two or more in the same flock. If you place a group of roosters together without having hens in place will just start to fight. But if it is a regular flock compromised of mainly hens but still more than one rooster, there will be a kind of uneasy truce to make a ranking. Often this will turn into more intense fighting later on and one or both of the roosters may die, which is why it is best to keep them separated.
If you have a larger backyard and are able to allow the chickens to move around freely, you may be able to have more than one rooster around because each one is going to be able to create their own flock without the fights. In these cases, each rooster will ignore the others, except for maybe a few spats. Of course, there are many different types of breeds and some are going to be a bit more aggressive than others. Keep in mind that if a rooster starts to become aggressive towards you, it is best to just use them for meat rather than fighting with that hassle.
The rooster is always going to be the leader against the hens. The rooster will be allowed to get whatever he wants and right when he wants it. Often the rooster is not going to want the hens to squabble a lot so this can help to reduce the amount of fighting that you have between the hens. But, the rooster will usually allow all the hens to eat along with him, as long as no one tries to pull ranks. In some intense fights between the other hens, the rooster may step in to help resolve the problem.
The rooster does not have to be the oldest or biggest in the flock. As long as the flock ends up being mature, he is going to become the leader of the coop. The rooster is not just about ruling over the hens though; he is also going to be their guide, protector, and basically lover. He will stand the guard over the hens when they eat, show them where to get the best things to eat, and will even show them to where the best places to nest are. He is their protector and as such, he is usually given some respect in the coop.
In most flocks, the roosters are going to have a favorite hen. This usually turns out to be the dominant hen in the flock, but not always, and they are good at treating their ladies well. The rooster is going to mate more with the one who is their favorite, but he will not ignore any of the hens and give them attention from time to time.
The Romance of Hens and Roosters
If you are looking to get some good eggs from your hens, you will need to have the rooster mate with these hens. Roosters do not have a big courtship ritual when compared to other types of birds, and the amount and type or romancing will vary depending on the type of rooster.
When the rooster is ready to mate with a hen, he will create his own tiptoelike walk. He will get in this stance and approach the hen, usually strutting around her a few times after he goes by. When the hen is approached in this way, they will crouch down before moving their tail to the one side to show they are in agreement.
The rooster is able to mate a few times a day. Younger roosters may try to mate a few times one right after the other, but in most cases, he will try to spread this throughout the day. When the mating process is done, the chickens are going to preen their feathers and then move on with their day. A rooster is even able to mate with a hen even if he is infertile, meaning that older roosters as well as those in the cold could still be mating.
Hens Without Roosters
Hens are not going to be lost if you don’t have a rooster in the coop. In fact, they are able to even lay eggs on their own. The hen is going to be born with all of the eggs that her body will ever have, and the hen will lay all of these eggs for the rest of her life, or until there are no more eggs, whether or not the rooster is around.
The amount of eggs that the hen will lay varies depending on each individual as well as the type of bread. For the most part, the hen is going to lay their biggest amount of eggs within the first three years and after this time you should not expect to get very much out of them.
When the hen lays an egg without a rooster being around, the eggs will be infertile. These are the eggs that you will eat for breakfast because there are no baby chickens inside. The hormonal cycle of the chicken will have the eggs come out whether the rooster comes out. If you are just interested in having some good eggs to enjoy for breakfast, you can just pick out some hens and not bring home a rooster. On the other hand, if you would like the chance to raise baby chicks from home, a rooster can help to fertilize the eggs for this to happen.
Chicken Bath Time
Another issue to explore is bath time for the chickens. They aren’t that fond of getting wet, but they do like to take some time kicking around and playing in the mud. Any time that some loose soil gets into the coop, you will find that the chickens are trying to take a bath in it, which can make them really messy.
Chickens are known for scratching out a depression in the soil, usually big enough to fit their whole body inside, and then lie down right in this depression. With the dirt that they took out of the hole, the chickens will throw right onto their feathers and shake it around. This seems to make the chicken very happy and it also is a good way to keep some of the parasites away.
While it may be a little bit annoying that the chickens are digging big depressions into your backyard, there isn’t much of a way to stop this. You could put up a fence to contain them to one area instead of letting them do this digging all throughout the yard, or even give them a big box of sand to use for this process. But you will not be able to stop the chickens from going through this process.
As you can see, taking care of chickens doesn’t take a lot of work. Just learning about some of their social behaviors and how they like to behave can make a big difference when it comes to how well you are going to be able to take care of them. Learn these behaviors and give the chickens the care that they need, and you are sure to have the perfect flock in your backyard.