Why do Chickens Peck and Scratch the Ground?

If you carefully watch your chicken flock outside their coop, you will notice the flock members are constantly pecking and scratching the ground. Scratching is an instinctive behavior in chickens, and it seems to be in their DNA.

Chickens peck and scratch the ground for several reasons. Your chickens will peck and scratch the ground to clean their beaks, forage for food, and dig holes.

Reasons Why Chickens Peck and Scratch the Ground

As mentioned, pecking and scratching the ground is an innate behavior in chickens. There isn’t a single reason why your chickens are constantly pecking and scratching the ground.

There are several explanations as to why your birds are pecking and scratching the ground. Below are some reasons explaining why chickens peck and scratch the ground.

– Cleaning Their Beaks

Chickens also peck and scratch the ground to clean their beaks. This is particularly evident after your chickens consume soft foods, moistened grains, and yogurt. The sticky the food your chickens eat is, the more your birds will peck and scratch to clean their beaks.

Chickens aren’t as messy as ducks are. They will spare time to clean their beaks if there is any food, poop, or dirt on their beaks.

If your chickens get pretty messy after consuming sticky feed, they will constantly wipe their beaks in the ground to clean off their beaks. Your chickens will also peck and scratch the ground to trim their beaks apart from cleaning their beaks.

A blunt beak will affect your chicken’s quality of life because the bird won’t eat with a blunt beak. Chickens must file and sharpen their beaks in readiness for eating, pecking, and preening purposes. If their beaks grow too blunt and long, your birds will have challenges eating and keeping clean.

– Foraging for Food

Chickens instinctively know there is plenty of food lying under the ground’s surface. Chickens therefore peck and scratch at the surface of the ground to find food. Chickens will peck and scratch the ground’s surface for grass seeds and plant material.

Furthermore, the birds will keep pecking and scratching the ground to forage snails, insects, and worms. They instinctively know there are plenty of bugs in the ground, and the ultimate way to access the bugs is by pecking and scratching the surface of the ground.

Chickens will continue pecking and scratching while foraging for food in the ground even when their crops aren’t necessarily empty. After pecking and scratching the ground, chickens consume everything they come across, from seeds and insects to tasty morsels.

Since chickens are omnivorous birds, they will peck and eat almost anything they encounter after pecking and scratching the ground’s surface. Therefore, if your birds are pecking and scratching the ground, they are foraging for food, and pecking and scratching, in this case, shouldn’t bother you.

– Eating Rocks

Besides pecking and scratching the ground for grass, insects, and worms, chickens also peck the ground to find rocks. Chickens, like other birds, don’t have teeth. These birds need to eat tiny rocks to help digest the various foods they consume each day.

Without eating the small rocks in the ground, chickens will be unable to digest food in their gizzards. Therefore, your chickens will constantly peck and scratch the ground to search for tiny rocks that make the foods they eat daily easily digestible.

– Digging a Hole

The other reason chickens keep pecking and scratching the ground is to dig holes they can comfortably fit inside. They need a hole for dirt bathing, which is vital for helping chickens clean their feathers, remove excess oils on their feathers, and eliminate external parasites, including mites and lice.

Dust baths are equivalent to the showers we take every day to clean our bodies. Chickens won’t hesitate to peck and scratch the ground to dig holes that allow these birds to cover their feathers in the dirt.

By dust bathing, your chickens are cleaning themselves to their skins, which helps suffocate lice and mites simultaneously. It isn’t unusual for several chickens to dust bath together. After all, sunbathing and dust bathing are social events for chickens.

Chickens also peck and scratch the ground to dig holes for making comfortable nests. Even when a hen has a cozy nest box, the nest box might not feel comfortable for the hen. The hen might dig a hole to make an alternative nest to rest, incubate or lay eggs.

– Filing Nails

When chickens peck and scratch the ground, they aren’t only foraging for food or digging holes for dust bathing. These birds also peck and scratch the ground to file their nails. Chickens that don’t peck and scratch the ground usually grow long nails.

Chickens with long nails have a problem curling their toes, especially while roosting. Chickens living in cages have long nails since they don’t have somewhere to file their nails by pecking and scratching. Free-range chickens, however, can conveniently file their nails by pecking and scratching the ground.

How to Stop Chickens Scratching the Lawn?

Whereas scratching and pecking is an innate behavior in chickens, constant scratching and pecking can ruin your lawn. If your chickens find some soft spots on the lawn, they will start digging holes and taking dust baths all over the lawn, making your lawn look like a crater over time.

Luckily, there are several methods to stop your chickens from ruining your lawn through endless pecking and scratching. Try these options below to stop your chickens from scratching your lawn.

– Fence Your Lawn

Chickens will constantly scratch your lawn if they get access to the lawn. Fencing your lawn will help keep the offending birds from ruining the lawn through scratching.

A good fence will keep the chickens at bay, stopping them from ruining the lawn further. You can also fence particular lawn areas where you don’t want the chickens to go.

– Keep the Chickens Indoors

Although keeping chickens indoors might sound like a punishment for ruining your lawn, keeping the birds indoors will help ensure they won’t get to the lawn in the first place.

A large coop will keep your chickens indoors and provide the birds with sufficient space to peck and scratch since chickens will never stop pecking and scratching.

– Provide Your Chickens With a Designated Bathing Area

One of the reasons your chickens will scratch your lawn persistently is to get ideal spots for dust bathing. If you allow your birds to dust bathe in your lawn, you will have countless holes that will make the lawn appear ugly.

You can spare a designated area where your chickens can take occasional dust baths whenever they want to clean off their bodies. You can also use kitty litter boxes to provide your birds with convenient bathtubs.

Use Temporary Cages

If you want your chickens to have a free-range lifestyle, you can consider placing temporary cages over specific areas where you don’t want your chickens to go. For instance, if you recently planted vegetables on your lawn, you can try using temporary cages to stop the chickens from attacking your plants.

– Monitor Your Chickens

Scratching and pecking make chickens happy. Even when you don’t want your chickens to attack your lawn, they still need to peck and scratch constantly. Allow the chickens to access the law, although under your control.

If they aren’t messing up the lawn, you can allow them to keep on scratching. However, you can chase them away if they are being destructive since they will ruin the lawn when you allow them to go to the lawn.

Besides monitoring your chickens, you should also control the number of chickens on the lawn. The fewer the chickens going to the lawn, the better since there will be minimal destruction in the lawn.

Conclusion

Chickens love pecking and scratching on the ground since that is their instinctive behavior. Irrespective of how hard you try to keep your birds from pecking and scratching the ground, they will never cease this innate behavior.

However, you can prevent your chickens from scratching your lawn to save your newly planted plants.

Chickens   Updated: March 30, 2022
avatar Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too.

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