Raising chickens is enriching work. They’re often one of the first farm animals people consider when starting to homestead. They're a true dual-purpose animal, providing you with both meat and eggs. It’s economical to start raising chickens due to the low up cost of feed and housing. They are also super easy to raise and don’t require a ton of training.
If you’ve ever spent any time watching your chickens—which is very entertaining—you'll notice they have some weird little quirks. I’ll go through some of these behaviors and explain what they mean so you can better understand your feathered friends.
Squat When You Walk By Do your chickens ever squat when you put your hand out to them or walk by? Ours do. This is essentially a submissive squat. Hens squat down like that when they are submitting to a rooster for fertilization, which tells the rooster they are ready. In this situation, they’re submitting to you as the one in charge.
Make Holes in the Ground Our chickens do this all the time and there’s a simple explanation for it. Chickens require dust baths, which are your chicken's way of keeping themselves clean and removing parasites. If you’re not providing your chickens with a dust bath, they will go out and find it for themselves.
If you live in the country and have lots of land you probably won’t mind having your chickens make some holes for themselves. But if you live on a smaller property you might be tripping over these holes. You can make a dust bath in a shallow bucket by adding diatomaceous earth, dirt, and even some dried herbs like basil or oregano for added health benefits.
Make Weird Noises Oh, the noises chickens make! To the untrained ear, every chicken noise might sound the same, but in reality they have many different noises for a variety of purposes. There is a “happy” noise, an “I just laid an egg” noise, a “danger is coming” noise, and many more.
Don't be alarmed by all their chirping. Instead, I highly encourage you to go hang out with your chickens and get used to the vocalizations they make and try to match them up with the surroundings. You can also search online and compare chicken noise recordings to the noises yours are making.
Lose Their Feathers If your healthy-looking, mature chicken starts to lose feathers, don’t be alarmed because this is perfectly normal. It may look a little weird and you might get worried about your chickens, but they naturally lose feathers during their molting period. They usually do it around fall, it’s their way of getting rid of feathers that are dead or damaged and replacing them with stronger, healthier feathers to keep warm for the winter. It usually takes three weeks to a month for chickens to grow new, replacement feathers. During this time you can give your chickens a feed that has higher calcium and protein content.
Only Use One Nesting Box Ever check for eggs and they're all in the same nesting box? Me too. It’s another weird chicken thing. You’d think they’d like to spread out and each have their own space to lay, but instead they just make one big pile of eggs.
Hens will concentrate their nests because they are essentially trusting the hen before and her judgement on egg-laying location. This is why some folks will set a golf ball or wooden egg in hopes of persuading chicken to lay inside nesting boxes. Hens gravitate toward the other egg as if it’s where she was told to lay. The choices of her fellow chickens make her think it's a safe spot for her eggs.