There is a constant debate on just how emotional chickens can be. But, we chicken owners have seen it all. We know that chickens can experience happiness, fear, love, even sadness or loneliness.
The more time we spend with our chooks the more we truly understand just how complex these feathery companions can be.
Here we go through whether chickens get sad, how to tell if your chickens are sad, and what you can do to help them back to their normal happy-go-lucky selves.
Do Chickens Get Sad When Another Chicken Dies?
When it comes to the capability of chickens’ emotions, it’s known that chickens experience friendship within the flock, experience grief at the loss of a fellow chicken, and chickens can even miss their owners.
So really it’s no surprise that chickens can indeed get sad, or exhibit behaviors that appear like loneliness or depression.
From a psychological perspective, sadness can be characterized by an emotional state governed by feelings of grief, disappointment, hopelessness, disinterest, or a dampened mood.
Although it’s rare to observe these types of emotional states in chickens, it does happen.
The most common cause is a loss of a fellow flock mate. But, chickens can also feel sad for simpler reasons like not having enough room to scratch, bathe, and forage, or being alone or bullied.
So, chickens do get sad when another chicken dies!
In saying that, not all chickens will grieve and show this sadness. I don’t even know if some of my chickens ever realized.
How To Tell If Your Chicken Is Sad
The longer you spend with your flock, the more you will pick up their unique personalities and nuances between each of your special chooks.
But, when it comes to sadness, loneliness, or depression in chickens, their behaviors are often much more subtle or are observable only by the lack of their normal routine behaviors.
Nonetheless, here are the observable behaviors and telling signs your chicken is sad, lonely, or depressed:
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Dull or pale comb and wattles
- Hunched posture
- Sleeping longer than normal
- Separating from the flock
- Estranged low purring noises
- Not leaving the coop
- Not sunbathing or dust bathing
It’s important to note that signs of illnesses can sometimes appear like signs of sadness. Common indications of a sick chicken include inactivity, reduced egg production, lethargy, unusual posture, abnormal droppings, unkempt feathers, and dull comb/or wattle.
When chickens are sad, they make unmistakable unhappy noises, much like how dogs whimper when they’re feeling lonely. In comparison, sick chickens cough, wheeze and make other odd verbalizations attributed to illness.
Before concluding your chicken is simply sad, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian so they can rule out sickness first.
What To Do If Your Chicken Is Sad?
If you suspect your chicken is sad, you should try to narrow down the root cause so it’s easier to know which strategy you can use to cheer them up!
For example, if it’s caused by loneliness then you’ll want to help them feel included in the flock, but if it’s caused by bullying, you may wish to take the opposite approach for a while.
If you don’t know exactly what’s causing your chicken to be sad, that’s fine too. Here is everything you can do to help cheer up your chicken and return them to their normal, happy-go-lucky selves.
Spend Time With Them
Similar to how you build trust with your chickens to help them like you, spending time with your chickens, being close to them, and talking to them, will help you and them bond. Over time they will feel more and more comfortable around you. It’s often this trust that can change a chicken’s behavior around you and their flock leading to a happier chicken.
This also works to cheer up sad ducks too!
One of the leading observations of sadness in chickens is loneliness. Chickens are social creatures and love doing their daily activities of foraging or dustbathing together. For this reason, it’s recommended to have at least three birds in a flock so they can keep each other company.
But, people often believe this can only occur in small flocks, but it can be chickens in larger flocks that feel the same effects. If this is the case, try encouraging companionship by allowing small groups to interact with your sad chicken at a time.
Change Their Scenery
Changing the scenery helps a fair bit, too. You can either move your chicken’s coop or buy a larger housing. Add some new signs, smells, and toys in their environment to keep them entertained and busy. You can also hang cabbages, perches, and swings in the run. Just be aware that transporting chickens to a completely new environment is a stressful time for them.
Stop Them Being Bullied
If your chickens are sad because they’re being bullied or picked on, separate them from the flock for a while. Even if you don’t catch the bullying in action, you’ll notice physical signs associated with this behavior if you pay enough attention. Signs include missing feathers, patchy fur, and bloody coverts.
Get Them Excited With Treats
You can also give your sad chicken some tasty food to indulge on, healthy table scraps can go a long way for both nutrition and building excitement with treats.
Try treats like sunflower seeds, watermelon, bananas, dried fruits, oats, or scrambled eggs. Food always makes everyone, including chickens, feel better.
Allow Plenty Of Time Free-Ranging In The Sun
The sun can work wonders for animals, including humans. Not only will vitamin D literally help their health and wellbeing, but allowing your chickens to free-range will also allow them the space they need and will encourage more activity in your chickens.
This one goes without saying, but it really does help. You’ll notice your chickens love foraging, digging holes, and dust bathing frequently.
So, with the complexity of chicken emotions, it’s no surprise chickens can get sad. But, keeping track of chickens’ emotional states can be hard as there is just so much going on in their lives!
Although it is possible for chickens to get sad when their fellow chickens die, not all chickens will grieve!
If your chickens do seem sad, try to work out what’s causing it, and try a range of solutions.
Chickens aren’t known to get chronically depressed, so it’s usually something you can fix by building companionship within the flock, changing their scenery, getting them excited, and allowing them plenty of time to forage and free-range as much as possible.