Odd Chicken Behaviour

Author: Aussie Chook Supplies  

Chickens can engage in some weird and wonderful behaviours – it is part of what makes them such an endearing animal to have around. But these behaviours can be a bit baffling, so here we have tried to explain the weird and the wonderful things you might witness or experience in your Chicken Keeping journey. Enjoy…

Why was my chicken lying in a hole and covered in dirt?

Chickens engage in the natural behaviour of dustbathing, which can be either be very funny or very unsettling the first time you see them doing it. This strange behaviour involves them finding (or making) a dusty area, dig a hole, lie in it and kick dirt over themselves. The purpose of dust bathing is to removed mites, lice and other bugs out of their feathers. It is also very enjoyable for them, as their favourite place to dust bathe will probably be in direct sunlight.

Chickens that are kept in a closed run should be given access to a cat litter tray (for example) with sand/dirt so they can still remove their own parasites… some chicken keepers also add Pestene powder to areas where they dust bathe for added protection.

My hen has started crowing? What the???

It’s not unheard of for adult hens to crow (though usually they are not as good at it as actual roosters are). It generally happens if there is no adult rooster in the flock. They won’t necessarily crow every morning, or all year. We had a hen who crows but she only did it sometimes, maybe for a few days a few times a year. 

I don’t think there is anything you can do to prevent your hen from crowing (other than keep a rooster, which defeats the purpose…). If it is too early, loud and annoying then putting her inside at night in a cat carrier with a towel over it will probably stop the crowing (at least it does with my hen). Let her out when it’s a reasonable hour. 

Why won’t my chicken won’t get off the nest?

Some breeds can be quite ‘broody’, which means they will sit on a nest and refuse to move with the intention of hatching out some chicks. If you put some fertile eggs under her, or if you have a rooster and suspect the eggs under her may be fertile, you stand a good chance of having some chicks after 21 days.

All broody hens have behavioural characteristics in common, including:

  • Sitting on a nest, with or without eggs and refusing to come off. They will be quite low into the nest (squatting) and will appear very puffed up and fluffy.
  • They may pull out some of the feathers from their belly, which ensures direct contact with the eggs. You may notice an increase in feathers in the coop/yard if this has happened.
  • She could get aggressive, screeching in a high pitched tone and even pecking at anyone who gets too close.
  • She will also have ‘broody poos’ – a surprisingly large and very offensive smelling poo which is a result of not having the frequency of pooing that a chicken normally does.

Also, broody hens may develop health problems associated with this behaviour including not eating/drinking/pooing daily and possible mite infestation  – they will need intervention from their owners to keep her healthy.