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Why Do Chickens Peck Your Feet?

Chickens make great pets and its lovely to see them roaming around the garden or backyard. But, if you keep chickens then at some point you’ve probably been pecked on the feet or toes at some point!

Feet pecking can be alarming to some people and especially young children, but is this an act of aggression or does it mean something else entirely?

Chickens may peck at your feet out of curiosity, mistaking them for food, or as a dominance behavior. Bright nail polish or moving toes can attract their attention, and they explore through pecking. Ensuring consistent and gentle handling can help manage and reduce this behavior over time.

Read on to find out more about chickens pecking feet, along with more information on why they do it and how you can deal with pecking due to aggression.

Why do chickens peck toes?

If you go near chickens wearing open-toed shoes or bare feet chances are they’ll be drawn to your feet and they’ll probably have a peck at your toes.

Chickens peck toes simply because they think they’re food. Toes move as we walk and to a chicken and they mimic worms which are one of their most favourite foods. Chickens use their beaks to peck something to check if it’s food which can, in turn, lead to them pecking your toes.

Toe pecking is more common in younger chickens and from experience, they seem to grow out of this after a while and maybe once they understand that you can’t eat them!

In the meantime, while they’re going through a toe pecking stage it’s not something to worry about too much because it’s unlikely the chicken is pecking out of aggression.

Although it’s not that pleasant getting your toes pecked I’ve never had a food peck which has marked or broken skin.

The main ways you can prevent this is by either covering up your toes when you’re around your chickens or by pushing them away gently when they do it and in time they should stop doing it completely.

Why do chickens peck shoes and clothes?

As well as pecking at feet and bare toes, chickens also like to peck at shoes and items of clothing.

Chickens peck at shoes and clothes because they’re either being inquisitive or they think there’s something on your clothing which they can eat. Chickens have very good eyesight and are drawn to shiny objects and patterns on clothing and shoes.

Its unusual that a chicken will peck at shoes and clothing out of a sign of aggression and just like feet and toe pecking it’s a behaviour which is generally seen in younger birds which should stop in time.

The image below shows some of my hens when they were younger, they were extremely nosey and would peck at anything, especially shiny coat buttons which one would bounce up and down trying to get.

Image of chickens pecking feet

Chickens pecking your feet aggressively

If you have a hen or rooster who is pecking your feet as an act of aggression its easy to spot the difference between this behaviour and a chicken who’s just inquisitive or thinks something on you is food.

If a chicken feels threatened or thinks you’re a threat to their position in the pecking order they can sometimes run up to you and peck at your feet and lower legs to try and chase you away.

A chicken who pecks at your feet in an aggressive manner will also fluff up their feathers and spread their wings to make themselves look scarier. A rooster can even wrap around your lower leg at an attempt to scratch you with the sharp spurs above its feet.

This can be a scary experience, especially for small children and there’s even a chance the chicken could break the skin if they’re out to inflict pain.

If you have a chicken who is aggressively attacking your feet then you can stop this from happening by establishing dominance over the bird.

Chances are, a bird who is acting like this is at the top of the pecking order, so you need to put yourself in a higher position. The best way to do this is by picking up the bird (with gloves and no bare skin) when it attacks and hold onto it under your arm for a few minutes to show that you’re boss.

Doing this a few times should stop this happening in time and will stop the bird from seeing you as a threat.

The article on the link at the bottom of this page also offers more tips on how to deal with aggressive birds.

Related articles

I hope this post has helped you to find out more about why chickens peck your feet and toes, you might also find the following post helpful too:

Why do chickens chase you?

Chickens not roosting in the coop – why & how to stop it

Do chickens need a light at night?

Will chickens use a cat or dog flap door?

Do chickens have ears?

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 November 20, 2020.

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.