Surprising Chicken Secrets: Communication, Hierarchy, Intelligence, and Pest Control

Surprising Chicken Secrets: Communication, Hierarchy, Intelligence, and Pest Control

Chicken Secrets Nobody Told You About


Raising chickens is a fulfilling and rewarding experience for any homesteader. Not only do they provide a consistent supply of fresh eggs and meat, but chickens also have unique behaviors and habits that make them interesting creatures to raise. In this article, we will uncover some surprising chicken secrets that you may not have known about. These insights will not only help you better understand your feathered friends but also enhance your overall chicken-raising experience.

Their Communication Skills

Chickens are far from being just clucking creatures. They possess an intricate communication system that allows them to convey different messages to one another. Here are a few interesting aspects of their communication skills:

1. Vocalizations:
– Clucks: Chickens cluck to communicate various messages, such as a call for attention, to announce the discovery of food, or to indicate potential danger.
– Squawks: Squawks are often heard when chickens get startled, scared, or when they are protecting their territory.
– Cackling: Hens cackle loudly after laying an egg, which serves as a way to communicate their accomplishment to other members of the flock.

2. Body Language:
– Flapping Wings: Flapping wings can indicate excitement or alarm among chickens.
– Puffing Feathers: Puffing up their feathers is a common behavior when they feel threatened or want to appear larger.
– Head and Neck Movements: Chickens bob their heads and necks when identifying potential threats or displaying dominance within the flock.

Their Social Hierarchy

Chickens have a well-defined social hierarchy within their flock. Understanding this pecking order can help you manage your chickens more effectively. Here are some essential points to know:

1. Alpha Hen: Every flock has an alpha hen, also known as the “top chicken.” She is the most dominant bird who leads the group and makes important decisions. The alpha hen determines when and where the flock will forage, drink, or roost.

2. Pecking Order: Below the alpha hen, there is a pecking order that determines the hierarchy of the flock. Each chicken has a specific rank within this order, which establishes who gets first access to food, water, and preferred roosting spots.

3. Establishing the Pecking Order: When introducing new chickens to an existing flock, they need to establish their place in the pecking order. This can result in some initial aggression and pecking, but eventually, a new social structure will be established.

4. Bullying and Intervention: It is important to monitor the flock for any signs of bullying or aggressive behavior. If a certain chicken is being targeted excessively, consider isolating them or providing more resources to reduce conflicts.

Chicken Intelligence

Contrary to common belief, chickens are surprisingly intelligent animals. They possess various cognitive abilities that are often overshadowed by their reputation for being simple-minded. Here are a few intriguing aspects of chicken intelligence:

1. Problem-Solving Skills: Chickens have been found to exhibit problem-solving skills, especially when it comes to obtaining food. They can learn to perform complex tasks to access food rewards, such as opening latches or pecking through obstacles.

2. Memory: Chickens have excellent spatial memory, allowing them to remember the location of food sources, hidden nests, and preferred roosting spots.

3. Emotional Intelligence: Chickens can experience a range of emotions, including fear, happiness, and even empathy. They have been observed displaying empathy by comforting injured or distressed flock members.

4. Tool Usage: Chickens can exhibit tool usage behavior, using sticks or other objects to scratch the ground and uncover hidden insects or worms.

Chickens as Pest Controllers

Aside from their role as egg and meat producers, chickens can be highly effective pest controllers on your homestead. Here are a few pests that chickens can help eliminate:

1. Insects: Chickens have a natural instinct for hunting and eating insects. They can significantly reduce populations of insects like beetles, flies, ticks, and even small snakes.

2. Garden Pests: If you have a garden, chickens can help control pests like slugs, snails, and caterpillars that can damage your plants. Allowing chickens to roam freely in your garden can help maintain a balanced ecosystem.

3. Weed Control: Chickens are great at foraging and can help control weeds by eating the seeds or scratching the ground to expose the weed’s roots.

4. Rodent Deterrents: Chickens are known to deter rodents like mice and rats. Their presence and natural instinct to hunt can discourage these unwanted pests from infesting your property.

My 2 Cents

Raising chickens is truly a rewarding experience, and discovering their many secrets makes it even more fascinating. From their intricate communication skills to their surprising problem-solving abilities, chickens are remarkable creatures that deserve our appreciation. By understanding their behavior and integrating them into our homesteading practices, we can create a harmonious and mutually beneficial environment. So, embrace these chicken secrets and enjoy the countless joys of raising your own flock.