How do Chickens Show Affection?

It’s easy to dismiss chickens as simple creatures that show no affection and aren’t as bright as other pet birds.

But those among us who’ve kept chickens as pets know that these birds can and will show affection both towards humans and each other. But they may show affection in ways that we’re not familiar with.

Not only are chickens capable of showing affection, but they also have a variety of ways in which they communicate affection.

If you’re still unconvinced, here are the ways in which chickens show affection depending on whether they interact with other chickens or with humans.

Physical Display of Affection in Chickens

Physical displays of affection are easily noticed, and chickens will showcase their affection toward others in the following ways:

– Preening Behaviors

It’s one of the most common ways in which one chicken shows affection towards another chicken. This involves one chicken using its beak to sort of smoothen out the feathers of the other chicken.

Beyond the ‘smoothing’ effect, preening also helps chickens to stay clean. It shows chickens that they care for each other and strengthens their social bond.

The social bonding effect is also achieved when two chickens preen together without preening each other. It signals to the other chicken that they feel safe in their presence.

A chicken that will preen itself in your presence or starts preening you with its beak will do so as an act of trust and affection towards you.

– Bowing or Squatting

Bowing and squatting can also be interpreted as a sign of friendliness. Hens will bow or squat in the presence of another hen to signal submissiveness or friendliness.

The other chicken then will not perceive them as a threat and may cease any attempts to attack the chicken that’s showing submission.

Chickens may bow down in your presence as well, which once again will signal their submissiveness in your presence.

– Soft Clucking Sounds

Possibly the most endearing way chickens showcase their affection is through soft clucking or cooing sounds.

Chickens will engage in these soft clucking sounds when feeling safe, loved, and content. You may also hear these sounds during feeding time as well, especially among chicks feeding together.

Chickens that will sleep in your presence or allow you to pet them, or even run to you when they see you, can also be interpreted as signs of friendship, safety, and affection.

So, if you notice any of these behaviors in your presence, you can count yourself lucky, because you’ve just won the affection of your chickens.

– Feeding Each Other

Feeding each other is another sign of affection between chickens because it’s a generous and selfless act.

The first example of chickens feeding each other starts when the mother hen shares food with her chicks and teaches them how to feed on their own. But this practice of sharing food with each other can also be observed in adult chickens too.

Sharing food or feeding each other strengthens the social bond between chickens and can be perceived as an act of generosity and affection.

Feeding together can also be a sign of affection, especially when two chickens make it a point to always feed together.

Social Interactions of Chickens

Chickens are social birds with several interactions that are meant to strengthen their social bond, provide them with a sense of safety, protect them from predators, and even protect them from diseases.

Here are some of the social interactions that have been observed in chickens:

– Roosting Together

Chickens like to sleep perched up above the ground in the company of other chickens. Because chickens are prey animals, they feel safer sleeping close to one another, safe from predators and other dangers.

Not any roosting perch will do, however. When choosing a chicken roost, do take into account the following things:

  • It should be built from wood that’s sanded down and that offers a good grip for the feet of your chickens.
  • It should be sturdy and long enough to accommodate several chickens.
  • It should have an appropriate width to prevent stress on chicken feet.
  • It should be mounted high enough in the chicken coop to provide a sense of security but must be relatively easy to access by chickens.

Roosting together will not only keep these birds safe but also increase the social bond between chickens.

– Rooster’s Dominance over Hens

Chickens live by complex social structures that are meant to ensure good cohesion between members of the flock but also meant to ensure the survival of its fittest members.

The social orders that arise in a mixed flock are between multiple roosters if there’s more than one, between hens, and roosters and hens.

Roosters will be dominant over hens, but this dominance also comes with the responsibility of the rooster protecting the hens from predators, other roosters, or any intruders.

– Hens Protecting Nests and Chicks

Hens are extremely protective of their nests and their chicks. When sensing danger a mother hen will cluck to warm her chicks of danger. The chicks will then hide under her wings until they’re no longer in danger.

Besides predators, a mother hen will protect her chicks from other chickens too. The mother hen will go as far as to fight to the death for her chicks.

Because of the comfort and safety, the mother hen provides, chicks form a strong emotional bond with her and their siblings. In the first 6 weeks of their lives, chicks become inseparable from their mother.

– Chickens Forming Flocks

Driven by their social instinct, chickens form flocks. The flock has several benefits to its members, especially when it comes to their survival and safety.

As there’s safety in numbers, there’s a higher chance of chickens surviving predator attacks, especially since the rooster will take it upon himself to protect the flock.

The flock can also protect members from the cold when chickens huddle together for warmth during winter.

The social bonding and safety that a flock offers chickens will also help with the emotional well-being of chickens.

– Chickens Mourning the Loss of a Mate

Interestingly, farmers often report that chickens not only notice the loss of a mate, but they also seem to be sad about it.

Chickens will both mourn the loss of a rooster and that of another member of their flock if they were close to each other. Sometimes, when a rooster passes away, some chickens will temporarily cease to produce eggs.

Mourning the loss of a mate, however, is usually temporary and chickens will quickly resume their daily routines.

– Chickens Grooming one Another

Chickens will usually groom themselves, but they will also often groom one another. Grooming helps clean off debris and dirt from the feathers. Maintaining its cleanliness is important for chickens to ensure better insulation and waterproofing.

Not all chickens will groom each other, but some members of the flock will form closer relationships and will show their affection towards each other through grooming one another.

Encourage Affectionate Behavior in Chickens

You can encourage affectionate behavior in your chickens by doing a few basic things that will make your chickens feel safe, comfortable, and well looked after. Chickens will be more likely to exhibit affectionate behaviors if they feel safe and protected.

So, how can you make your chickens feel safe and at ease?

– Provide a Safe and Comfortable Environment

First, you must ensure that your chickens are kept in an enclosure where they’re not exposed to any predators.

Secondly, the enclosure must provide enough space for your chickens, so that they have ample space to move and forage.

Chickens also need protection against the elements – rain, strong sun, heat, frost, snow, mud, etc. Make sure that they have adequate cover and chicken coops are warm enough during winter to protect against frost.

– Providing Plenty of Nutritious Food and Fresh Water

If chickens don’t have enough access to resources, they will need to compete with each other for food, which will hardly encourage affectionate behaviors amongst them.

Therefore, make sure that all your chickens have plenty of food and fresh water, and that they aren’t forced to compete for food and other resources.

– Keeping the Flock Size Small

If the flock size is small, social cohesion between smaller flock sizes is much easier to achieve. A flock size of 5 to 6 chickens can be a good option, but you can go as low as three chickens.


As you can see, chickens will show affection in their own way, which is different from how our more usual pets will show us affection. Learning how to interpret these acts of love and affection showcased by chickens, will help improve your relationship with them.

Whether you want to encourage your chickens to be more affectionate towards you or to become more affectionate towards other chickens, the first thing you must do is to make them feel safe and comfortable.

Chickens who have their basic physical needs met (food, shelter, comfort, company, etc.) will be more likely to form emotional bonds.

avatar James
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. Learn more

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