While your chickens will never send you a Valentine’s card or sing love songs, there is no doubt that our feathered flock is an affectionate bunch. Chickens spend their days socializing with each other and often become comically excited when they spot their owners approaching. This can leave poultry owners wondering if they are just hoping for a tasty snack or do our chickens really love us.
Chickens can feel love for humans and form bonds with other birds in their flock. They show affection to humans by following, sitting near them, napping close by, or making contented sounds. How chickens show love depends on individual personalities. Some breeds are more affectionate than others.
Research has shown that chickens experience different emotions, show self-awareness, and can learn remarkably quickly. Let’s find out more about how to read our chickens’ language of love so that it doesn’t go unrequited.
Can Chickens Feel Love?
Anyone who has observed a mom hen with a clutch of tiny chicks will be left with no doubt that chickens do feel love. The attentiveness, care, and devotion shown can be heartwarming to observe.
Likewise, many poultry owners report having a chicken that regularly seeks them out to be petted or to take a nap close to them. While it is true that not all chickens may show love in the same way, there is no doubt that individual chickens can and do feel love.
The loving nature of chickens is only recently becoming more widely recognized. It is becoming more common to find chickens replacing dogs as therapy animals. Their highly social, affectionate, and comical ways, combined with the fact that they are cheaper to keep than a dog.
A chicken that receives plenty of attention and gentle care from a devoted owner undoubtedly feels love. If you aren’t sure if your chicken loves you, look out for some of the following signs:
- They follow you around and enjoy being close to you even when you don’t have food.
- They settle down and sit near you – even when you are relaxing on a ‘human’ area like the porch.
- They enjoy being petted and may rub their head against you.
- Chickens may make soft, contented sounds while spending quiet time with you.
- They are comfortable enough to nap close to you. Sleeping around a human shows trust, as the bird is completely vulnerable.
While all chickens can feel love, some breeds are more likely to show how they feel, while others may take a little longer to warm up to physical contact with their owners. Breeds that are known to wear their hearts on their sleeves (wings) are Silkies, Jersey Giants, Buff Orpingtons, and Plymouth Rock chickens.
Are Chickens Affectionate?
The way chickens show their affection often varies between individuals, the breed, and past experiences that the birds may have had with humans. A chicken that was rarely handled is less likely to show physical affection in the same way as a bird that was hand-raised by humans.
If you spend a lot of time with your chickens, they will realize you come in peace and start feeling comfortable closer to you. Once they trust you, they may even come close enough to be scratched or want to hop into your lap and be close to you as they nap.
Some chicken breeds are more likely to show affection to their special humans than others. Silkies are particularly well-known for being cuddle bunnies, while you may need to spend longer trying to score a cuddle from a Brahma chicken.
Unlike geese or ducks, chickens can learn to trust and become affectionate with their owners from any age. Even if you rescue a previously unhandled adult chicken, if it is consistently showered with love and kindness, it will warm up and might become extremely trusting and affectionate.
Do Chickens Have Friends?
When raised in a healthy, stress-free environment with plenty of space, chickens are remarkably affectionate with one another. Since they are social birds, they move around in small groups with their besties, in much the same way as humans prefer spending time with specific individuals over others.
Bonded chickens show their affection to one another by staying close to each other throughout the day. It is common to observe small groups of birds foraging, dust bathing, and preening one another.
A lot of happy chattering goes on throughout the day between chicken friends. At night, small groups roost tightly together so they feel warm, safe and have familiar birds close to them.
Do Chickens Recognize Their Owners?
Research has proved that even newly hatched chicks are able to recognize familiar human faces. There is, therefore, no doubt that your chickens recognize their owners.
Chickens can differentiate between and recognize up to 100 faces, including human faces, so they aren’t as bird-brained as they are often portrayed. Remember that chicken eyesight and color vision are better than humans, so it stands to reason that they are able to notice subtle nuances between their beloved owners and other people.
The best way to ensure your chickens get to know you is to spend plenty of time with and talk to them. Regularly offering food and speaking affectionately to the birds creates positive associations for them between what you look like and how they feel about you.
Once your chicken friends accept you into the flock, you will have no doubt that they recognize you each time they see you! Owning an adoring flock of chickens can make any owner feel like a celebrity each time they arrive at the coop.
Do Chickens Bond With Each Other?
When new chickens are added to an established coop, it can take a while for them to get accepted into a friend circle. As in human circles, friendship between individuals is not automatic, and as time goes by, some personalities in a flock are drawn to each other.
Mother hens most certainly form strong bonds with their chicks. Both mother and little ones recognize the others’ vocalizations, and if they are separated, they will frantically search for one another.
Although it is unknown if adult chickens bond with one another in the same way as humans, they certainly prefer spending time with particular individuals over others. Small established friend groups can often be observed going off to forage or kicking up dust together while dust bathing.
When there are multiple roosters in a flock, hens prefer specific individuals and stay close to the rooster they like the most. It is unknown whether this is due to an emotional bond or because they perceive that individual to be most attractive or a better protector.
In any flock, there is always a lot of chicken politics at play. The pecking order is the social hierarchy amongst chickens, and everyone knows who fits in where in the system. Chickens recognize each other as individuals, and they know where they fit. They spend most of their time with other birds they are comfortable around.
Do Chickens Bond With Humans?
Chickens can bond with humans in the right conditions. They are unlikely to bond with strangers or people who have ill-treated them, but they can form close bonds with individuals they know and trust.
Chickens usually learn to associate humans with food, and they will gladly accept food contributions from anyone. However, a bird that has formed a close bond with a particular human is unlikely to settle for any stand-in person for a relaxing nap or cuddles.
The bond that can be formed between chickens and humans is becoming more and more apparent. Traditionally chickens were kept exclusively as livestock to produce eggs or supply meat, but more recently, they are becoming popular pets.
Chicken accessories like harnesses and leashes are becoming increasingly popular for chicken buddies. Since potty training chickens is notoriously difficult, chicken diapers are also available for humans who share their homes with their beloved pet chickens.
Do Chickens Know Their Owners?
Chickens not only know their owners; they can also recognize other faces and associate them with positive or negative experiences. So, if their owner is kind and spends time with the birds, they can certainly recognize their owners and are highly likely to behave affectionately towards them.
The reverse is also true. Chickens are highly likely to behave indifferently or even avoid human strangers or someone that may have treated them roughly. Even if only one bird was mistreated, they might sound a warning to the rest of the flock to let them know to stay away.
Do Chickens Understand Humans?
Chickens have complex language and spend a lot of time communicating with the birds around them. Over 30 unique sounds have been identified that signal everything from excitement about finding a tasty snack to issuing warnings if they spot a hawk overhead.
It is unlikely that chickens are able to understand exactly what humans are saying. Still, if they are comfortable with their owner, they will respond affectionately to the sound of their voice. Owners can develop some familiar repetitive ‘chicken talk’ words or sounds to use around their chickens, which may be reassuring for the birds if they are slow to warm up.
It is clear that chickens can recognize their names if it is used often from a young age. Even if training starts later, chickens are remarkably easy to train and can quickly be taught to recognize their own names.
Do Chickens Like Being Petted?
Many chickens love being petted if they are used to being handled and are comfortable with the person holding them. Those that like being handled usually enjoy being petted on the head, neck, chest, or back.
Like all individuals, some birds enjoy being held and petted more than others. Relaxed personalities may relish the quality time with their favorite human, while busybodies may be anxious to get back out to see what the rest of the flock is doing.
It is safe to say that our chickens love us in equal measure to how much we love them. Chickens often display loving behavior toward the humans that care for them. Some individuals even enjoy being petted or settling down for a nap snuggled up against their owners.
There is no doubt that mother hens are highly attached to their chicks. Adult chickens often have favorite friends they forage, dust-bathe, and roost with at night.