There are many misconceptions surrounding chickens, one being that they are not affectionate animals toward their human companions.
Chickens are very social animals, needing to be in a flock of three or more, and will consider a human a part of their flock.
They show affection to their humans in various ways, which are easy to spot when you know what to look for.
Read on to learn more about these love signs and how you should reciprocate!
How do chickens show affection to humans? (5 signs!)
Unlike dogs, chickens can’t lick you to show their affection. They can be hesitant at first because they are prey animals, and a human can be seen as something scary.
They may run away from you initially, but with patience and being gentle with the animals, you will be rewarded with loyalty and affection.
Sign 1: Sitting on your lap/ standing on your feet
When a chicken is comfortable with you, it will stand on your feet when you’re feeding and watering the flock.
They will also sit on your lap if you sit down in the run with them or while they are free ranging. They recognize that you are a safe place to be and will want to be close to you.
Sign 2: Trying to groom you
Chickens enjoy grooming each other, especially their favorite flock members. They will pick bugs off each other and clean each other by removing dirt and stray feathers.
They will try to do the same with you, although it may be a good idea to keep this kind of affection to a minimum because they could peck too hard and cause damage.
Do not get loud or upset with the animals when they do this. Push away their heads gently or nudge them away from you.
Sign 3: Rubbing their beaks on you
Like the popular Eskimo kiss, chickens will rub their beaks back and forth on you when showing affection.
They also do this to remove water and debris from their beaks and to mark you as a part of the flock.
They can recognize up to 100 people, and using their scent to mark you helps them identify you as a part of their flock.
Sign 4: Following you around
The easiest sign of affection to recognize from any animal is when they follow you around.
Chickens will follow their owners around because they feel safe around you and associate you with food.
Sign 5: Allowing you to pick them up
When they feel comfortable, chickens will allow you to pick them up and move them around.
They won’t fight with you or try to get away. They may even make small chirping noises in recognition to show they are calm and enjoy being picked up.
How will chickens show affection to each other? (3 observations)
Chickens like to be in flocks of three or more, so they spend a lot of time together. They will groom each other and like to share treats among their favorite flock members.
They have a unique way of bonding that may not seem obvious at first. You will have to watch to better understand how your birds interact with each other.
Mother hens bonding with chicks
Mother hens have a unique way of bonding with their chicks. Even before the chicks hatch, the mother hen will talk to them by making small chirping noises at the eggs.
The chicks inside can hear sounds from outside and will pick up on the specific sounds their mother makes.
When the babies are born, the mother guides them to what they can eat, what to avoid and protects them from rowdy roosters or other threats.
Roosters with hens
Roosters have a special bond with their hens. They will groom and cuddle with the hens of their flock and find treats to give the girls.
Roosters can even have a favorite hen, whom they single out to spend the most time with and bring special treats.
They protect the flock from threats and have unique crows to signal different things. These can mean a threat nearby, that their human is coming with food, or even that one of the hens has laid an egg, and he is proud of her.
Hens with other hens
Hens will do everything together, especially within their little cliques. They will share snacks and bring each other food.
They also cuddle together and roost together at night to sleep. Some will even coparent! They will team up to show chicks how to find good grubs and keep them safe from dangers.
How do I show affection to my chickens?
Set a schedule
Chickens do best when they have a set schedule. They learn what time to expect you to bring their food and water and will get excited to see you through the day.
The best time to give food is when you go to let them out for the day, and they will associate morning with good things from you.
They will appreciate knowing that a particular time of day means getting treats or pets.
Giving them time to have supervised free range at a specific time of day will allow them to get used to having you nearby and associate you with being safe.
Spend time with the animals
As mentioned above, supervised free-ranging is a great time to spend with your chickens.
Sitting in the grass with them while staying calm and relaxed will encourage them to come to sit near you or in your lap.
You can also spend time with them after giving them food or changing their water or bedding and let them know you mean no harm.
Give them treats
Chickens LOVE treats. Some favorites are mealworms, grasshoppers, and even fruits and vegetables.
During summer, they appreciate frozen fruits as they can cool them down. During winter, corn is a great treat to help warm them up from the inside.
Chickens are omnivores, so they will enjoy a good treat of an insect or a good juicy piece of fruit.
My chickens don’t seem to like me. Is this normal?
There are several reasons why your chickens may not seem to like you.
You may simply have a chicken who doesn’t like to be petted or picked up. You may also have to spend more time with them, or they’re skittish from a previous situation.
Chickens have different personalities
Not all chickens have the same personalities. Some will love to be held, picked up, and petted.
These will openly show affection to you and want to hop into your lap or fly up onto your shoulder if you’re sitting in a nearby chair. They are the ones who will come rub their beaks on you or attempt to groom you.
Other chickens may be more skittish when it comes to humans and shy away. They may want to just sit near you without being touched.
The chickens that don’t want to be held or petted may prefer to accept treats from your hand and simply be close to you without interaction.
Some chicken breeds are more inclined to want to be held and petted than others. For example, Orpingtons are among the gentlest breeds and enjoy a good cuddle.
Silkies are another example of friendly birds; these chickens are of a smaller size and enjoy being held close and made to feel safe.
How to work with difficult chickens
Patience is key when working with chickens. They are prey animals and are naturally skittish. Humans are much bigger, and moving too quickly can be startling.
Try being patient and moving slowly when around new chickens, especially if they come from a previous owner who may not have treated them correctly.
You should also speak softly to them so they do not startle. It could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to convince a chicken that you are someone they can trust.
Can’t force affection
Forcing affection onto a chicken will make them more likely to want to flee from you. It makes them associate bad things with you, and that’s the opposite of what you want.
As a chicken keeper, the animals need to trust you so you can inspect them for any illnesses or get to them in a situation where an animal may be trying to hurt them.
They also need to trust you to be able to find them if they become lost, as they will want to be near you to feel safe or to know they will get back to their flock.
It is a rewarding experience for your flock to trust you completely. Having chickens wanting to sit in your lap or trying to groom you is a wonderful experience.
These animals aren’t the easiest to gain trust from, but with patience and work, you can start reaping the reward of lots of cuddles in no time.