Hens can have extremely goofy chicken behavior and do some of the wackiest things. This is probably part of the appeal of backyard flocks! If you’ve ever wondered if your chicken’s wacky behavior was normal or there’s something wrong with it, you’re probably not alone.
New chicken-keepers may be especially confused by some of the bizarre behavior of these funny fowl. Some birds act even wackier than others and stump seasoned chicken tenders and experts alike.
Here are some common wacky chicken behavior questions and advice on what, if anything, you should do about it.
I’m Not Dead!
You’ve just found your favorite hen laying over on its side with one wing stretched out, looking nearly catatonic. Don’t worry. It’s probably not dead or even injured. Iit’s actually just sunbathing.
Although it looks strange, this is completely normal behavior and just one of the wacky things that chickens do.
“A normal behavior that scares a lot of people is sunbathing,” says Richard Blatchford, an assistant professor of extension, small to large-scale poultry, for the department of animal science at the University of California, Davis. Blatchford specializes in the husbandry, behavior and welfare of poultry and often talks with poultry producers and backyard flock-keepers about behavioral issues and how to change or address nuisance behaviors.
“The birds will just go down on their sides, spread a wing out and become motionless on the ground,” he says. “If people don’t realize that chickens sunbathe, they kind of look dead.
“Chickens tend to kind of zone out when they’re sunbathing, so you can get really close to them before they get up or move. I think this adds to the concern there’s something wrong with the bird because they never just sit there when you walk up to them.
“However, it’s totally normal. The bird is fine. They’ll finish their sunbath, get up and do their normal stuff.”
Chickens Gone Bald
If you remember when your first chicken went through its first molt, you may have seriously panicked over your bird going bald. Not necessarily a chicken behavior issue, the first molt can be freaky. But molting is completely normal.
However, there are a couple of reasons why birds lose feathers outside of molt that aren’t “normal” but may or may not be concerning. And some of the associated chicken behavior can be bad, even dangerous.
“The most common scenario is aggression,” Blatchford says. “If there’s aggression in a flock, birds show [it] by pecking. If they’re really aggressive, they end up pulling feathers out in particular parts of the body. You may notice a chicken missing feathers on the back of the head and neck, around the vent and sometimes the back. Feather loss due to aggression isn’t necessarily an issue for the birds themselves. They should grow the feathers back in the next molt.