There were a number of things that I didn’t expect when we were first planning to get chickens. This post details some of the behaviors that were a surprise to me.
As I mentioned in a post about getting your first chickens, I got some advice from a local farmer – who offers chicken classes – about what I should look for when thinking about buying chickens off craigslist. One of the things she told me is that they should be clucking and moving around. If they’re just sitting quietly in a corner of the coop it isn’t a good sign.
This was a surprise to me, as I’d heard in the past that chickens are lazy and don’t move around much. The man who told me this had claimed that with free-range chickens you need to feed them in different places or else they’d just stay where they are all day and never move.
Turns out, this isn’t true at all! Our chickens are moving around almost constantly, checking out their coop, moving around the run, having a dust bath, or digging through some treats I’ve given them.
Reaction to Humans
When we went to pick up our chickens, I was surprised that the seller told me to just reach in and grab them by their legs. The chickens didn’t seem overly concerned about me reaching into the run and as soon as they were hanging upside down, just went limp.
Whenever I approach their coop I feel like they have mixed feelings about me. They usually come over to the door, since they clearly have associated me with food and treats, but at the same time, they keep a bit of a wary distance and aren’t eager to be hand fed – although they will eventually peck away something out of my hand if I’m patient enough.
Letting You Know When Something is Wrong
Probably the number one thing that I didn’t expect with chickens is that they convey problems fairly clearly. Whenever someone is in the backyard, the chickens usually start clucking loud enough that I’ll have a look out the window.
I was also worried if they ever ran out of food or water they’d just get sick and die. Instead, they make a ruckus and when you open the door they try to head out! It’s been very obvious to me, based on their behavior and noise, whenever something isn’t right in the coop.
They have a lower-level version of this behavior that seems to me to be just their way of telling me they want a treat. Usually, if I pick them a few dandelions they’ll be satisfied.
Sticking Close to Home
We had been nervous about what the chickens would do if they ever got out. Eventually, of course, one of the hens scooted past me when I was cleaning some things up in the run. As soon as she was out, she just started pecking away at the lawn and didn’t seem very bothered either way. I started to chase her, and, of course, that just got her to run away so I quickly stopped.
Instead, I found just calmly moving to the opposite side of the direction you want them to move in and slowly approaching them will move them where you want them to go quite easily. Yesterday for the first time we had drinks out in the backyard and let the chickens out to poke around. They seemed happy with the opportunity to be out and would wander in and out of the run, so they didn’t seem to be desperate to be away from the cage. Keeping them away from my wife’s garden was probably the hardest part of having them out. We even brought the cat out and she and the chickens couldn’t have cared less about one another.
What behaviors have you seen in chickens that were unexpected?