If you take the time to watch the behaviour of a chicken you’ll probably notice that they regularly wipe and scrape their beaks at the ground and other surfaces.
Some chicken owners worry that beak scraping could be a sign of a problem, but in fact, this is a part of normal chicken behaviour and there are a few reasons why they do it on a regular basis.
For a chicken, it’s beak is a tool which they use for most tasks, including pecking, investigating and eating. It’s important that they keep this crucial piece of equipment in good condition and free of debris.
The main reasons why chickens wipe and scrape their beaks is to keep them clean during and after eating and grazing along with keeping the beak sharp and in shape. Just like we file our nails, a chicken can file its beak by rubbing it on a rough surface.
Read on to find out some more information about how and why chickens wipe their beaks.
Why chickens rub their beaks on the ground and other things?
1. Beak cleaning
Just like we don’t like to have food on our faces, neither does a chicken. When foraging for food chickens beaks will become muddy and will attract all kinds of debris depending on what they’re eating.
To keep their beaks clean and healthy a chicken will regularly wipe their face on either side to remove any unwanted debris.
They’ll generally do this on any available surface such as grass, the side of a wood coop or stone.
2. Beak shaping
Chickens beaks are made from Keratin which like our nails will keep on growing if they’re not kept in shape.
When chickens scrape their beaks across a rough surface such as stone, this will help to keep their beaks in shape for tasks such as eating, preening and foraging.
3. Beak sharpening
Having a sharp beak is also important for chickens as they forage for natural foods. Certain foods such as snails require more work than others and having a sharp beak allows them to break up and find food in hard to reach places.
Given the chance chickens will eat live food which is far too big for them to eat in one go such as mice, frogs, large slugs and even snakes. It sounds pretty gruesome, but having a sharp beak enables them to break things up into smaller bitesize pieces which they can easily digest.
The downside of having a sharp beak is when it comes to pecking each other because a sharp beak can inflict injury or result in feather pecking.
4. As an act of aggression
In rarer cases, beak wiping can be one of the signs of chicken aggression, especially in roosters.
When a rooster is aggravated his behaviour will become more erratic, normally out of frustration and to show signs of dominance.
If our rooster is in a bad mood he wipes his beak on the ground and also picks up twigs and leaves and flings them around out of frustration.
Chickens all have very different personalities and in most cases, especially in hens, their nature will be placid and non-aggressive. So, if you have a chicken who wipes its beak a lot, don’t worry because it’s most likely to be cleaning or shaping rather than an act of threatening behaviour.
This article was first published on December 16, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets.
How do chickens sharpen their beaks?
Chickens generally choose a flat stone or concrete patio slab as their beak sharpening tool of choice, but any rough surface will do the job.
Our hens tend to use the same sunken stone, as you can see in the image there’re scrape marks where they’ve been rubbing their beaks in between foraging for food.
They also use this stone as an anvil to break up snail shells and get to the snail inside.
- Beak Cleaning:
Chickens regularly wipe and scrape their beaks on various surfaces, such as grass, wood, or stone, to keep them clean and free from debris, especially after eating and foraging. This behavior ensures that any unwanted residue from food or the environment is removed, maintaining a clean and functional beak.
- Beak Shaping and Sharpening:
The beak, made from Keratin (similar to our nails), continuously grows and requires maintenance. Chickens naturally shape and sharpen their beaks by scraping them against rough surfaces, such as stones, which helps keep the beak in optimal condition for eating, preening, and foraging.
- Behavioral Aspects:
While beak wiping is generally associated with cleaning and maintenance, it can also be linked to other behaviors. In some instances, especially in roosters, beak wiping might be exhibited as a sign of aggression or frustration, showcasing erratic or dominant behavior, although this is less common in hens.
I hope this post has helped you to find out about why chickens wipe their beaks, you might also like the following article:
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on December 16, 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 December 16, 2020.