Have you marveled at your chickens’ ability to see that green bug, that tiny brown seed, that best pellet in the feed, or that red berry in a barn full of dirt and grass? Chickens may possess “bird brains,” but their eyes are a totally different story.
Knowing what colors your chickens can see and what colors your chickens prefer can help you set up your backyard coop, nesting boxes, feeders, and anything else you want the chickens to pay attention to!
Let’s take a closer look at what colors chickens like and why.
What Colors Can Chickens See?
Chickens’ eye cones can detect and differentiate between not only the basic color spectrum we can see – red, green, and blue – but also ultra-violet lights. They detect light not only through their eyes but also through their pineal and hypothalamic glands. This makes their lives very colorful and vibrant.
This does mean chickens can actually see more colors and shades than we do, as we mere humans cannot see any ultraviolet (UV) spectrum or only a small degree that our lens actually filters out for us.
So, just like humans associate different colors for different moods and to catch our attention in different ways, chickens will naturally do the same thing based on their experiences and instincts.
What Colors Do Chickens Like?
The answer to this question has been pondered by farmers, chicken keepers, and backyard homesteaders everywhere. Light and color are important in poultry production. Producers strive to provide the best conditions and a stimulating environment for chickens to improve their health, happiness, and productivity, and help them reach their full potential.
Just like humans, chickens have the ability to associate a color with a certain type of experience based on repetitive exposure to the stimulus. This means, although there may be some natural colors that chickens prefer to feel safe or to recognize food for, it won’t apply to every chicken. For example, a chicken that has been regularly stalked by an orange dog will have a natural aversion to this color (and shape/color combination). But, a chicken that has grown up in a certain color coop may feel more comfortable with that color in the future as it associates the color with being safe.
So, there will be both colors that the chickens like, and colors that chickens are afraid of or dislike.
Best Colors for Your Chicken Coop, Nesting Boxes, and Feeders
Different kinds of chickens have different needs and preferences for colors. But, most chickens love red, with yellow coming at a close second. Red wavelengths penetrate their skulls and stimulate the hypothalamus part of their brains very effectively. That’s why shades of red, yellow, or orange are great colors to paint your coop and nesting boxes.
As for painting inside the coop, go for a light pastel color like peppermint green or pale pink if it’s a bit dark outside, and a darker shade if it’s bright outside. Choose matt paint over shiny reflective gloss or enamels.
A cozy coop that’s well-equipped with comfortable nesting boxes, stocked with feed and water in the run, and placed in a grassy, shaded area that’s safe from predators, is a great home to give your chickens.
Many chicken supplies like waterers and feeders also come in yellow and red to attract chickens’ attention and help them find their feed and water from far away. Red especially is like a shining beacon for chickens, so put something new you want them to eat in a red bowl; this trick will work even with older chickens. Also, wearing a red hat or yellow socks around their coop is a sure way to get yourself pecked at! Or if you’re like my niece and want to attract the attention of all the chickens in your yard simply wear bright red to make yourself seen!
Best Colors to Help Your Chickens Lay Eggs
Red light lamps are known to encourage reproductive maturity and stimulate chickens to lay more eggs. Go for a “warm” wavelength bulb that gives a yellow, orange, or reddish glow to help stimulate egg production.
Chickens’ reproductive cycle is triggered by the light-dark cycle. If your chickens aren’t laying enough eggs, make sure they’re getting a minimum of 12 hours of light a day, including daylight. They also need darkness to sleep 6-8 hours a day for a healthy immune system, so don’t light up the whole coop at night!
This attraction to red is also why it’s important to protect a wounded chicken from the flock until it has healed since a bloody body is a signal for them to peck at it. Some studies have linked being exposed to red light, to more activity and possibly aggression between chickens. Red mixed with white light camouflages blood and wounds and induces less feather pecking.
Other Favorite Colors for Your Feathered Friends
Blue also deeply stimulates the chickens’ hypothalamus and helps promote their growth. Blue light helps relieve stress and keeps them sitting still, which is useful when catching, vaccinating, or treating them. Blue, green, and, white have been known to increase chickens’ appetites. The color blue can also create an environment to keep them calm and relaxed when you are getting ready to say goodbye to your chicken.
Cool white light improves their growth, but may increase unwanted behavior, while warm white light lowers their activity, and improves their egg-laying and egg hatchability – which is why you’ll see so many egg incubators coming with warm white, or warm red light.
Curious birds that they are, chickens are also attracted to shiny, and bright colors like purple, pink, and orange. This extra sensitivity to color helps chickens find mates, and establish dominance and territory, which often involves colorful plumage. It also helps them when foraging for colorful fruit.
So, what colors do chickens like? Red, yellow, blue, and green are at the forefront, but chickens are also fans of all bright, cheery colors. As you’d expect, not all the chickens’ preferences are the same because there is an element in both instinct and experience that helps chickens decide what colors they like. Poultry producers, homesteaders, and everyday backyard farmers try to make use of this knowledge every day to help chickens be as happy, healthy, and productive as possible.
Someone even went so far as to make red contact lenses for chickens to try to increase chickens’ happiness, but let’s not go that far. The best thing to do is remain consistent with what colors your coop, nesting boxes, and food and water containers are so the chickens have an easier time adjusting to the conditions and spotting their nutritious food and water from a mile away!