As animal owners its human nature to want your animals to live happy lives, this is especially true for chickens who sadly don’t always get treated with the respect they deserve.
Chickens are much more sensitive and also more intelligent than many people think and have the ability to be impacted negatively if things aren’t quite right.
We’ve spent time finding out more about chicken behaviour along with learning what it takes to provide our own chickens with a happy life where they can do all of the things which chickens love to do. But how do you actually know if a chicken is happy or not?
Identifying a happy chicken involves observing certain behaviors such as vocalizing contentedly, showing curiosity in their environment, engaging in preening, dust bathing, and having a good appetite. A relaxed posture, bright eyes, and regular egg-laying are also indicators of a chicken’s well-being and happiness.
Read on to find out more about what it takes to keep happy chickens along with more signs which you can use to find out if your chickens are happy or not.
What makes a chicken happy?
Chickens are pretty easy to please and just need some basic requirements to make them truly happy and comfortable with their lives.
The things which make chickens the happiest are:
- Grazing for natural food such as bugs, worms, grass and greens.
- A safe home.
- Preening time.
- Being able to dust and sunbathe on a nice day.
- Not being shut in a coop for longer than is needed.
- Regular feeding and treats.
- Being part of a happy group.
- Being safe from predators.
As chicken owners there are things we can do to make sure our birds are happy, these include:
- Some free-range time on a daily basis will prevent a chicken from becoming bored and will allow them to forage for natural food.
- A clean coop where they can roost and nest – including roosting bars and nest boxes.
- Predator proof coop run and free-ranging giving the chickens a feeling of safety.
- A regular feeding routine of nutritious feed – chickens will quickly get used to a routine and will know when it’s feeding time.
- Enough space to graze and stretch within the run.
- Food treats such as vegetables or chicken corn.
- Shelter for days when the weather is bad.
- Allowing them an area to dust bathe.
For a chicken the things which probably make them happiest are food and grazing for food, so a chicken which can free-range to some degree will definitely be the happiest chicken.
A happy chicken will repay you with the best eggs especially if they’ve had access to natural food.
Signs of a happy chicken
A happy chicken will be on the move all the time scratching and foraging for small morsels of food and tasty treats.
Chickens will enthusiastically use their feet to scratch the ground surface to unearth natural foods such as seeds, grass, greens, bugs, worms, slugs and anything else that moves.
As well as foraging for things to eat, chickens will also pick up small pieces of grit which helps them to grind up their food.
Foraging helps to keep chickens busy and will provide them with extra nutrients which will provide a healthy boost to their diet.
You can find out more about natural foraging in the post below:
A happy and healthy chicken will appear alert by using various head movements to look around and to listen.
A chicken who appears confident and not frightened or subdued is a happy chicken.
3. Happy noises
A form of communication in chickens is sound and they will use a variety of different sounds with each other and also with the humans who take care of them.
Chickens who are content will regularly make soft clucking sounds as they graze or if they come up to you at feeding time.
If our chickens are shut inside the run for any reason they have a special sound which they know they can use to get around me to let them out, they also get particularly noisy when they see us coming out of the house.
Cockerels also have their own set of sounds which they use for encouraging female attention along with seeking out and threatening nearby competition. They will also make contented noises and communicate with hens softly as they graze.
4. A good laying routine
A hen who has a good laying routine is generally a happy hen and a healthy hen will produce a good quality egg with a hard shell and a rich and tasty yolk.
If a chicken has a good home along with a clean and pest-free nest they are more likely to feel happier come nesting time.
A happy chicken will generally routinely lay throughout the year, although you might see some reduction during very cold weather and if the chicken is moulting.
This is why free-range eggs are so good and the addition of natural foods in a chickens diet will make the eggs even better.
5. Human interaction
A happy chicken will be pleased to see you when you go out to see them and will even come dashing up to you at full speed. This might be mainly due to cupboard love, but they do enjoy human interaction too.
Chickens generally enjoy being around humans and will show signs of interaction by making eye contact along with communicating with a variety of chicken noises. Happy chickens will come up to you and even follow you around.
Some breeds and especially hybrids love being around people, whereas others might be a bit more standoffish but generally happy to see you.
By using calls and treats you can make your chickens like you even more – find out more about this in the post via the link below:
Signs of an unhappy chicken
There are a number of signs that a chicken might be unhappy due to something to do with their living situation or because of illness, these include:
- Generally subdued – standing still and not taking much interest in things they normally would.
- Signs of stress or shock.
- Not eating at feed time.
- Being unusually quiet.
- Not laying or laying inconsistently.
- Hunched up as if in pain.
- Not interacting with the flock or you when they usually would.
Reasons a chicken might be unhappy
Chickens can be very sensitive creatures and if something is causing them stress or they’re feeling unwell this can bring them down and prevent them from doing the things they’d usually enjoy.
There are a number of reasons why a chicken could be unhappy here are some of them:
- Illness and health issues – there are a number of illnesses and health issues which can affect chickens, including infections and digestion issues.
- Problems with laying – these can include being eggbound and issues with soft eggs.
- Nutrient deficiencies – especially calcium deficiencies in laying hens.
- Predators – predators, (such as foxes, weasels and mink) in the area will cause stress or if there’s been a recent predator attack.
- Rats – rats in a chicken coop can cause stress and in some cases, a hungry right might attack a chicken while it sleeps.
- Parasites – such as worms, lice and mites can all cause illness and unhappiness in chickens, especially in bad cases.
- Lack of space and room to roam – if a chicken has little space to roam and stretch it is likely to become unhappy and boredom can promote aggression within the coop and run area.
- Moulting – although a natural part of a chickens lifecycle this can lead to a period of time where the chicken stops laying and becomes subdued.
- Bullying within the flock – chickens have a natural pecking order within a flock which can sometimes lead to bullying of chickens at the bottom of the order.
In most cases, if a chicken is unhappy this can be dealt with by removing the reason for unhappiness.
This article was first published on October 31, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets.
If you feel that your chicken might be sick always consult a vet for some expert advice.
There are also many chicken supplements available to provide chickens with a health boost if they’re going through a difficult time.
A good treatment for shock or stress in chickens is honey and water, especially if they have a warm quiet place they can go to for recovery time.
I hope this post has helped you to find out more about happy chickens – you might also find the following post helpful:
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on October 31, 2020.
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.
This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 31, 2020.