Three ways chickens will freak you out April 6, 2012

When I first started keeping chickens—or as my daughter likes to say, “way back in the olden days”—I was easily freaked out by their behaviors. Like, all the time. Seriously. For a while it seemed to happen at least once a week. Now, it’s not that I didn’t inform myself beforehand about what to expect; it’s more that when actually confronted with what I’d read about, it was way different than what I’d imagined.

chickens dust bathing

For example, if you’ve never seen a hen dust bathing, the first time it happens, it will give you the heebie jeebies. After all, when you initially get your hens, you may have read that they like to dust bathe, you may remember it, and you may look forward to seeing it, even. But when you actually walk outside and see a group of your hens flopping around in the dirt—all uncoordinated wings and feet, as if they’ve had their necks broken—well, dust bathing is just not always the first thing you think of. It looks more like a seizure. Worse, they’ll flop around a while as you stand there with your heart in your throat, then stop flopping at all. DEAD, you think! As you try to gather your wits to figure out what to do, and what may have happened—Predator attack? Sudden illness? Are there any survivors?—they may start flopping again, and you think with horror, “Sweet suffering babies, the poor things are still alive!”

Even sun bathing, while not quite so violent-looking as dust bathing, can be more than a little disturbing. I remember walking out into the yard one summer day to come across something that stopped my breath.

sun bathing chicken

Like Scarlett O’Hara viewing the casualties from the Battle of Atlanta, when I saw the scope of the devastation, my heart dropped. Everyone lay on their sides, wings askew, all lined up unmoving, like casualties of war

But my worst terror was my very first!

A little background, first. Hatching a batch of baby chicks is, in itself, very stressful, and especially so if it’s your first. In the “olden days,” I had a simple styrofoam-type incubator without a fan or egg turner. Waiting 21 days is always excruciating, and this first time I was so worried that I would do something wrong, or that the temperature would spike, or that the power would go out, or that one of the million bad things that could happen, would happen. As it turned out, I had an okay hatch for a beginner trying with shipped eggs: 8 out of 18. I was so relieved! After the chicks had mostly dried, I put them in their warm, safe prepared brooder. Then I went back to candle the remaining eggs to see if any additional chicks would be forthcoming, perhaps late. However, there was nothing. So, I discarded the undeveloped eggs, sanitized the incubator, cleaned up and went back into the brooder room to see how everyone was doing. I was so relieved after three weeks of worry that I was actually successful at hatching my own chicks in a home incubator.

But, DISASTER! The chicks were unmoving. They looked as if they’d been scattered into the brooder, just tossed, and lay in various awkward positions as if dead. One of them actually lay belly up, its little twiggy legs in the air.

I took a few moments to get a hold of myself, and then finally I reached into the brooder tearfully and with a shaky hand to remove the dead babies, horrified, wondering how I’d killed them. My mind went over everything; I had checked the temperature of the brooder just 20 minutes ago, and it still looked good. Could the thermometer be so off? Had they died of some illness? Was there something wrong with the food? But as my hand touched the first one, it jumped up with a surprised peep, and rushing through the brooder, awakened and refreshed, it roused all the others. They began running around as if nothing had happened at all. Even the one on its back.

sleepy baby chicks
These guys aren’t even that young and they’re passing out…

They were fine. In fact, they’d just been asleep in the warmth of the heat lamp. And as I watched them for a while trying to catch my breath and get a hold of myself, they one by one plopped over again to sleep… with the same one rolling over on its back. WHAT?

So, okay. Apparently that’s normal after all.

Now, after having had my chickens for years, I seldom get too worried unless something is actually wrong. (I’m kind of afraid to say that; will it jinx me?) But what unreasonable terrors did YOU had with your chickens when you first started? I’ve only covered three. Please share your own story in the comments!

Pam April 6th, 2012

Oh yeah, the dreaded sun bath. When we moved here 10 years ago, I was thrilled to finally have a yard surrounding the house. I could watch the chickens doing chicken things from every window! Yay! Then I looked out the kitchen window to see – dead chickens! OMG! I raced to the back door, calling and making all kinds of noise….to round the corner and see – nothing. I had scared them out of sunbathing mode and they were somewhere else looking at me like “what?” Chickens! Love ’em!

Chicken lady April 6th, 2012

I have found that dead chickens are more life-like than sunbathing chickens.

lisa brawner April 6th, 2012

love the post..i just got my hens this week so this will help me to not freak so bad

Torrie April 6th, 2012

Wonderful post! New to chicks I almost fainted as I watched them just walking normal then fall straight forward as if they expired in mid step. Only to realize they had just fallen asleep. And as tiny babies in the brooder making the first attempt at a ‘dust bath’. I yelled for my husband, Something is wrong! Monty is having a seizure! And the first time they ‘melted’ in the sun. I thought they had heat stroke. Black stars in the Florida sun…thought it was the worst decision we had made. Apparently they love it since they look for a sun spot and melt right there. I love my babies!

Heidi April 6th, 2012

What a funny post!! I had all of those same moments with my first batch of chicks. The sleeping especially. For some reason I thought they would settle down like hens on a roost. But no – they fall out mid-stride in a death pose. It’s quite terrifying if you don’t know what to expect.

Wendy S April 6th, 2012

My kids had never been around chickens before so they wake me up one morning freaking out because the, “Chickens are burying themselves!” I was like, “What!?!” I ran down to see what was going on and was about ready to fall on the floor laughing when I saw the babies were just dust/sun bathing under the heat lamp!

Bequi April 6th, 2012

The first molt! James and I panicked as the hen suddenly lost handfulls of feathers which were spewn all over the yard. We checked for signs of illness then did some quick research and realized that she wasn’t sick and dying, just molting. Whew! Soon after two others followed in her stead but by then we knew what was happening.

Kathleen Leone April 6th, 2012

Oh, yeah! Can SO relate! Dust bathing never startled me, thought it looked kind of cool actually. Sun bathing startled me a little bit when I first saw it, but I’m used to my dogs and cats doing the same thing, so I was prepared for what something like that looks like. But the way they sleep when their babies (even though I had read and was “prepared” for it) scared the heck out of me! I still stop and stare and make sure I can see their little backs/sides moving up and down, so I know they’re breathing! When I first saw it, I had the same reaction as you, picking them up to check on them. Which peeved them a bit, as I was disturbing their naps! Ha ha! Chickens make all the “stress” worth it, though! Such a joy to have.

Kitty (The Hockman Girl)

INchickgirl April 6th, 2012

I learned the hard way about the dust I thought she was hurt for sure..
This has been a great blog ty!
This has helped considering this is my new adventure of chicken raisen

Happy Easter!

Tanna April 6th, 2012

We had our brooder in the house and one chick insisted on trying to “dust” bathe in the shavings in the middle of the night. I remember getting up and hearing the noise and I thought she was having a seizure. The first time I saw one sun bathing it was over 100 degrees. I thought she had just given up on life to lay in the hot Texas sun.

Debbie April 6th, 2012

Several of my chickens were out in the gravel driveway just 2 days ago “performing” the hilarious dust bathing. lol I also remember the olden days of the sleeping chicks. I have gotten into the habit of making noise as I go in to check on them. 🙂

luther34 April 6th, 2012

I had my “freak out over dead chicks” in the store before I actually brought any home. I was oooh-ing over the adorable little bundles of fluff when I spotted a dead one. “Aww… Poor little thing…” I notified one of the store employees who calmly walked over, tapped on the brooder, and said,”Nope, they’re good. That’s just how they sleep.” Huh… Weird…
So, when i did finally get to bring my first batch of fuzzy chicks home, I did not worry(as much) when they’d fall asleep in awkward looking positons. 😛

Heather April 6th, 2012

Well I worried myself about “chicken flu” – even bought the vaccination online and had a friend of ours who raises parrats come and vaccinate them… Then of course the first year – HARD – molt – I knew it was coming and when it starts you’re all like – oh they’re just molting, then days later when they look horrible, you start thinking to yourself – wait – maybe it’s something else – maybe it’s some form of disease… and I hold my breath until I can finally see feathers coming back in… whew! Love my chickens – they’re the best!

RMStrong April 6th, 2012

Ah, the dust bath (or, right now, more “wet dirt bath”). Yeah, I kinda freaked out the first time I saw that.

Bonnie April 6th, 2012

I, too remember vividly my first “dead chicken” experience. Also, the dust baths were awful the first couple of times. They truly look like they are having some kind of seizure and knocking at deaths door!! I love my chickies and these blogs!! Thanks! 😀

Jen Morgan April 6th, 2012

We got our first dirt bath yesterday. I might have missed it if not for my dog freaking out and barking his fool head off. Apparently he was just as distressed as I might have been if I’d not known better. I laughed. He calmed down. The dominant hen got up and pecked him – much like a scolding for disturbing her. He yelped but didn’t bother them any more. I went and got my camera and got a couple good shots. It was a good day and a great “first” memory.

I smiled all the way through this blog post :).

Sheila Chapman April 6th, 2012

Having “mothered” baby chicken chicks , Turkey poults and even baby pheasant chicks (They are really cute) , Im kind of an old hat when it comes to chickens sleeping or dust bathing My worst moment came one day when I heard an unearthly noise coming from the chicken pen . Somehow a Red Tailed Hawk had gotten in under the netting and they were all calling for me their mum to come save them . A hair raising few minutes ensued as I tried to free the hawk ….. he was huge , without scattering my chickens through the yard , but I did it and apart from a few ruffled feathers (Sorry) no-one was the worst for wear Except me I was shaking …..

tin lizzy April 6th, 2012

This past year was my first year with chickens. Got them as approx 8-week olds (they’d been abandoned at the humane society after hatching). Along with my experience of “what the what?” with the dirt-bathing (which I at least knew to expect, just not how awesomely odd and amusing it appears!) and the sun-bathing – one of the things that initially freaked me out a bit (at least enough to head out to the run/coop to investigate) was the cacophony generated when one of the hens lays an egg and starts yelling about it, causing the rooster to start yelling as well. I srsly thought that there was poultrycide happening in there the first time I heard it – only to discover that it was just a lot of chicken-exclamation.

Deb April 6th, 2012

Molting was scarier since they seem to loose them in fall when they should keep them. Brrrrr. And Hawks are always scarey since they coming so quietly. But that is all part of life too.

Deana April 6th, 2012

First my Husband and I along with our son decided to venture into 2 chickens. Then 2 became 5 then 5 became 9 then 9 finally became 10! We are maxed out! When we added our 3 with the 2 chicks we already had, the bigger babys still in the brooder. We had no fight no pecking levels nothing like that. The new ones happend to be brought home at 1 week the others were two weeks when we got them. So we have 5 happy seemingly healthy chickens. Well as a worried Mom of new chickens I went to look at my brood the first night of the new ones and found my husbands americauna all spread out with it’s neck bent! I looked to see if it was breathing and I couldn’t see that it was. So went runny into the bed room woke up my sleeping husband screaming that Bernadette was dead! We both go running down the hall tear around the corner and she is laying out flat as a pancake. She hears my husband and jumps up and runs to him and makes the little Amercauna cooing noise! I don’t know if I was mad that she scared me to death or happy she was fine.

Kim April 6th, 2012

LOVE this post! We’re getting our chickens in the next couple of weeks, so this is very very timely!

tonya kinney April 6th, 2012

My first day I had my chickens–they had been in the brooder for 20 minutes when I went back to check on them and 4 of them were soaking wet and almost dead!! The waterer I had bought had sprung a leak and almost drowned them. PLEASE check the waterers before putting them in with the babies!!! I was mortified that I was so careless. It made me wish I hadnt bought them at all but …now I love them like my own kids.

stacy April 6th, 2012

I myself have been freaked out..but my fear now and thermal is predator day I heard my hen just boking loudly my heart pounded as I ran out to them too find not only was things okay but I had what would be my first eggs from my new hobby and that I have one proud egg layer. …three years later she still anounces every egg she lays with very loud excited billing..

Angela April 6th, 2012

When I got my first chickens, one of them didn’t have any down on its neck and most of its head. I thought, “what’s wrong with this one?!” It turned out that she’s was a transylvanian turken and I was elated.

Sister Gabriel April 6th, 2012

Most of these behaviors I have encountered before, so it was not a surprise to me. However, last year was my first year hatching chicks, and I had two roosters. Each time I let them out, they would go up to each other and body slam each other. I had not seen that behavior before!

Sandra April 6th, 2012

I saw my chicks have a “dirt bath” for the first time today! Thank goodness I read this first or else I would have thought she was having a seizure!

Gussie May April 7th, 2012

We were freaked out when one of our first chickens, a Japanese bantam, turned broody last summer at just a few months old. She stopped eating and wouldn’t leave the nest box–I was sure she was ill and dying. Brought her back inside, made a little hospital room for her under the heat lamp with warmed towels… of course she was fine. Put her back outside the next day, and she went right back into her nest box. It took several weeks before she really got over it, and she was the last of the 7 to begin to lay. All talk, no action! She laid well over the winter but with warm weather has turned broody again. Just a natural-born mother!

Janet O'Kane April 7th, 2012

Thank you for a very funny post – I love the chick on its back photo! Here in Scotland we’ve had a couple of bad winters recently, and my hens have reacted in different ways to snow. Most simply refused to come out in it, while a couple of them strode off until they sank. However, it was the ones whose wee brains worked out that the white stuff had to end somewhere and set off to fly over it that caused us most concern. One had to be dug out of a drift, one settled on the bonfire we were building and had to be carried home. Sparrow, the tiniest bantam, ended up on the roof of our garage. No coaxing would get her down and when my husband climbed up a ladder to reach up for her she ran to the other end of the roof. In the end we had to – very gently, I promise – push her off with a broom handle then pick her up where she landed. Luckily they all seem to have learned from their experiences and we’ve not had a repetition of these experiences – yet.

Lydia April 7th, 2012

Great post! I don’t have anything to add, although I’ve always wanted chickens!

sandi April 7th, 2012

I had one of those moments today!!! Just got 4 baby chicks today, set them all up, went to check on them, found them dead!! Lying in all odd positions……then I touched one…..LOL

Elisha April 13th, 2012

Oh, this is just too funny! We had a neighbor scared recently when the chickens decided to sunbathe on the property line…. she was so shocked! lol Love it…. they truly are more entertaining then television 🙂

Pat Sneed April 16th, 2012

Great post!

Susie April 23rd, 2012

Today marks the first week anniversary of bringing home my first batch of day old chicks. I got 10 going ‘cheap’ at the local tractor supply (every pun intended), they’ve been going ‘cheep cheep’ almost ever since.

6 Rhode Island Reds, and 4 Comets, and they are growing very fast. This morning my young’un declared me a chicken whisperer when I discovered how to put them to sleep almost instantly, by holding one of our little ‘nuggets’ in one hand, on it’s back, and rubbing its tummy with the fingers of my other hand. Just like soothing my girl by rubbing her back when she is upset, and she was rather upset to find several of them ‘dead’ under the heat lamp one afternoon. After reading all of these posts I realize that I’m nothing special after all, and that there will be many more dramatic moments with my young’un!

Back home in England, an old timer used to call eggs ‘cackle-berries’ due to the noise the hens make when they lay, but I’m really glad to know about the dust baths and sun bathing. I love watching them nod off on their perch – they always look like they are about to pitch forward and fall over. So we made it thru the first week – The indoor coop is all but finished, stained, draft proofed, perches, home made waterers and feeders that hang from hooks, it stands several inches off the floor, so I hope to convert it to outdoors if I have to, but in the meantime, it is furniture – they really are more interesting than the TV. BTW, I recommend Bag balm (developed by farmers for cows udders) to relieve your hands from the dryness and cracking from all the hand washing – since of course you can’t help cuddling them…..

conner April 25th, 2012

dst bathing never scared me. my hen, ariconnie molted and i thought she was sick.

Kayli April 26th, 2012

I’ve had one surprise in the three weeks- one of my chicks was sprawled out, i touched it, AND SHE DIDN’T MOVE! then a chick walked over her head….PEEP PEEP PEEP peep. peep…..and then to sleep again. just a deep sleeper.

Laura April 30th, 2012

Thank goodness I read about dust bathing ahead of receiving my chicks, although at first when i witnessed dust bathing just one of my chicks was doing it, so I thought, “Oh no, its Marek’s disease! Thankfully, after almost having a nervous breakdown the other chicks joined in, and I re-read the section on “dust-bathing” in my literature. I realized it was just dust-bathing. What a free for all!!!!!!

Carola April 30th, 2012

Oh, the dreaded sun bathing!!
I grew up with parakeets and had several during my childhood and teen years. Unfortunately they pass away eventually. And when they are dying, they look exactly like a chicken that’s sun bathing! Flopped to one side with their wing and leg stretched out and the head twisted in that horribly unnatural angle.
Even after keeping chickens for over 10 years now that sun bathing still gets me and my heart skips a beat, worried that I lost one of my precious hens.

Susie May 2nd, 2012

the nuggets (as my young’un) calls them, are now the size of ‘cordon bleu’s, not that we will be eating them – they have been transferred from their cardboard box to their temporary indoor coop. I have towels over the top, except for where the heat lamp is, so imagine my surprise when I spotted two little legs under my bedroom door this morning!
Amelia (the only one with a name so far ) is the largest of the golden comets, and had somehow managed to ‘fly the coop’. She has escaped several times yesterday and today, she just loves to fly – but I can’t figure how she is getting out. She also gets the most handling since I cuddle her and stroke her before putting her back with her peeps. This site is so wonderful, I would have thought they were all dead so many times over if I hadn’t read all your posts…. thank you soooo much!

Christy May 15th, 2012

My babies arrive next week and I’m SOOO glad I know how they fall asleep. That would certainly have had me freaking out. Didn’t know about the sun bathing, either. Thanks for the hilarious post!

Concerned June 8th, 2012

Thank you! I thought my chickens got some sort of disease but after watching your video, they were just sunbathing!! I was so scared b/c the chickens would flop over like they just started sinking into a slumber, and then kind of close their eyes and flop over on its side!! The other chicken would peck at it to get it back up!

Accidental Chicken Mom July 10th, 2012

I keep a watchful eye over a feral hen that took up at my house about a year ago. Of course, I feed her too. With every new thing she does I have to run to the Internet to find out why she’s doing it. I thought she had done everything until today when she did her “sunbathing” in 100 degree weather. She usually stays in the shade in hot weather so I was very surprised to learn that this is a normal thing hens do. Thank goodness — I thought she was very sick too!! Thank you for the knowledge. Love this site!!!

Melissa July 15th, 2012

I’m so glad I came across your blog! My husband and I just hatched chicks in an incubator for the first time (only two chicks so far), and they keep randomly falling over like they are dying. I was so worried that they are sick and not going to make it. I feel a lot better now knowing this is probably normal and they are just falling asleep. 🙂

Jeanie P August 31st, 2012

I’ve been reading this blog and almost all day. I’ve become obsessed. It is now 1:17 in the morning and I have finally moved from the couch to my bed. I feel so silly – here in my bed, by myself in the wee hours of the morning, laughing so hard that tears are running down my cheeks and my eyes are so filled that I cannot see. You know – it’s that kind of laughter that you can’t control. Every time I settle down a little bit, I think of “dead chicks” and crack up all over again. How wonderfully therapeutic ! ! Thank you all for sharing your stories and providing such joyful stress relief. I’m hoping to get started with my chickens in the next few months and now I know much more about what to expect. And what I now expect, is to absolutely love my new venture – I CAN’T WAIT ! !

Cathryn October 17th, 2012

Thank you so very much for this post! I received 6 chicks yesterday that are pets for my kids. We went down for a quick cuddle and to say good night. We were sitting on the floor, when I looked up and noticed “Fluffy”, my son’s chick belly up…just like your picture. My heart sank so fast and I just knew she was dead. Thankfully, it is normal and now I can sleep tonight!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Kris January 30th, 2013

You should be a part of a contest for one of the greatest websites on the internet.
I’m going to recommend this web site!

JOSEPH GAGNON February 18th, 2013

one time my two laying hens were sun bathing but of corse when i fed them there meal they run over clucking and making there signiture rrrrrrr-b-b-b-b and one of my hens lilly who already ate her full started to have a dust bath . well that got the whole flock rilled up and they all started to dust bath untill the whole coop, flock and myself was covered in dust

Laura March 12th, 2013

Wow, I am so glad that you took the time to write this. I stumbled across it while I was looking up why my chicks were flapping on their sides in their tank, phew, glad to see it was only dust bathing. I thought the only one I had named, Ginger Rogers, was dying, but she finally got up and was fine, but just now another was doing it. Many things raced through my mind. Thanks again for reassuring me that all is well in my chick land. I am new to this and I have 6 girls….they are precious!

Lissa March 14th, 2013

You’re very welcome. I just remember how worried I was when I first saw that flapping and flailing, too!

Natalie March 23rd, 2013

Thanks for the info my did this today and I was worried, not so worried now!

Stephanie May 7th, 2013

I found this page on a frantic search of why my chickens are outside in the sun dying! First day in the open, and all of them flop to the side and onto the ground. I’ve already beat myself up for not adding vitamins to the water, putting a new perch in the coop (was it treated wood?!?) and wondering what else they could have come into contact with. Thank you for turning my day around!

Lissa May 7th, 2013

So glad this helped!

Katherine May 8th, 2013

Oh my gosh, I knew about the dust bathing and sun bathing, but I have to say I would have undoubtably freaked if I had seen my precious new hatchlings “dead” like that. My goodness.

Haha, I have to say though, one thing about hens that scared my mother was when she thought our Buff Orpington had injured her foot. She wouldn’t come out of the nesting box and whenever we’d try to move her she would make a shrill screech and growl; all the while puffing up to impressive size. When she was taken out of the nesting box she’d just sit there puffy and forelorn, ocassionallu still growling. We’d try to help her stand but she would just fall back to the ground like a rock. Concerned my mother separated her and put her in a dog kennel so she wouldn’t “injure” herself more before she could come back from work to take her to the vet. I found her in the kennel stuffing her face and standing just fine. Three large and really smelly poops keeping her company. So I figured if she was ill she wouldn’t be standing, eating, pooping, and acting normal; so back outside she went. I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, but confused, I watches her extra puffed body hike itself back into the coop. By now I knew she wasnt injured but my mom had her doubts- so she went surfing online for answers while I figured, eh she’s just being strange and obsessive over that box- must want to hatch those eggs. Sure enough my mother calls saying she’s Broody- meaning she wants to hatch eggs- I giggled at the notion of her injuring her foot compared to broodiness. So I was instructed to remove the eggs from under her to stop the broodiness. Hilariously it didn’t work because now she wanted to hatch the shavings. Few day later I changed the shavings in all the boxes and she was snapped out of it. Silly hens amiright?

terry and jeff May 13th, 2013

LOL! I was so sure my dust bathing chickens were having a seizure. I’m glad others have thought so too, makes me feel not so alone 🙂

Banana September 8th, 2013

I’ve been working from home for the last 6yrs and outside my workshop window is my chicken house and yard. I spend about 12 hours a day there.
I have other adjoining yards too as I have roosters and chicks to care for as well.
Just recently I realized that over the years I have learned to understand chicken !!
All the different noises they make and as my kids grew up they were first concerned when the chooks or the roosters started going off and I would casually explain what was happening.
My daughter now a teenager just recently asked me if I could understand “chicken” and I realized that indeed I could.
hahaha how about that !!

Lissa September 9th, 2013

There are a few of us who can speak chicken! 🙂 You can read about my experience right here in our Chicken Help pages.

mark nute October 6th, 2013

we have chicks that are starting to hatch. 2 have and are waiting wait on another 5 but our hen/mum is very listless and looks like she is dying . wont drink or eat. is this normall

Lissa October 7th, 2013

It is normal for a broody to resist eating and drinking as much as normal while she’s on eggs, and especially when the chicks are hatching she doesn’t want to get off the nest because she doesn’t want to interrupt the hatching at that critical time. That doesn’t preclude the fact that she could be ill, too, though. You’re not specific about why you think “she looks like she is dying,” but if she’s showing symptoms that indicate she’s very ill, you should consult a vet to get a firm diagnosis and treatment options.

Jodi November 4th, 2013

Thank you thank you thank you for blogging this kind of info. I am on my first batch of chickens and I freak out when my sweet girls enter the sunlight and “faint”. I have them in a temporary coop where they get sun and shade at all times but when I lift the top of the cage to visit or feed them, I get multiple “fainting” birds and rush to finish feeding hoping I didn’t just harm them. I haven’t seen a dirt bath yet and my little girls may have been older as to not “drop dead” under a heat lamp. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!

Elizabeth January 29th, 2014

@Mark, It’s been a bit since you posted about your brooder. If anyone has a broody hen, make sure to place food and fresh water in the nesting box with her. We did this for our brooders and it is also good for the chicks after they hatch. We used two small, shallow dishes to make sure chicks couldn’t get into them nor drown. The brooders stayed healthy this way.

Kyla May 13th, 2014

i love chickens i have had about 8 chickens but then like 2 vanishied and i have this one chicken that acts like a dog . if you say “Stay” she will stay untill she gets bored or you say come. its amazing

Kyla May 13th, 2014

Also we had this one chicken that was being picked one by the other chicks so the store manager said we can take it home for free so we did. But at home she fainted alot and (for real) we had to give it CPR and mouth to mouth. After a little while she would start swaying again and then faint once more. But about a month later she died.

Tylie June 16th, 2014

My baby chick, I don’t know what happened, but her neck is kinda croocked like turned to the side. Also she can flip her head upside down and like touch her stomach. I don’t know if that’s bad or not but I would like to know if it will evetually get straightened out.

Lissa July 2nd, 2014

I’m not sure I can picture what you’re describing. Several health problems can cause neck issues in baby chicks. It wouldn’t be possible for anyone to know which without details such as the brooder environment she’s kept in, whether she’s been exposed to adult birds, whether she came from an NPIP flock, whether she’s getting a proper diet and so on. We’d recommend contacting your veterinarian to get a diagnosis and treatment options.

Yousuf July 8th, 2014

I have a rooster 13 months old is healthy and active but since over two weeks when it climbs the wall and jumps it fell on one side.When it scratches the head it gets disbalanced and fells on one side.I love my rooster and since two weeks I don’t know why this problem started.

Lissa July 10th, 2014

So sorry to hear your rooster is having issues. You may want to have his issues evaluated by a vet to make sure it’s just clumsiness rather than not neurological problems. We hope he’ll be okay!

Sharon July 15th, 2014

Just wondering if chickens have to dust bath every day? My big girls dust bath when they free range, but don’t free range every day.

Lissa July 16th, 2014

Generally speaking, chickens won’t need to dust bathe every day. However, if they’re experiencing any pressure from external parasites like mites or lice, they may need to do so to keep keep the issue from turning into a serious infestation. You can always provide them with a sandbox filled with sand and other dust bathing materials for use when they’re not ranging!

Michael September 23rd, 2014

One of my hens got out of their cage, opened up the other hen’s cage by accident then beat her up! When I got home, I thought she was dead! There were ants all over her, but it’s a good thing the black ants got to her first. If they were red, she would have been done for. Her face was swollen from the ant venom, but she was still alive. But when I got home, I found the other hen in the cage, near the one she just beat up, and the beat up hen was lying on her back, legs up, barely conscious. I thought she would have been dead by the next day! But I soaked her in soapy water to get all the ants off. Over the next few days though, she did fine! Just sometimes her eyes can’t open and I have to open them up for her….. I’m 13……

Lissa September 23rd, 2014

Hi, Michael. Gosh, we hope your hen will be okay! It’s important to introduce chickens to each other slowly, and be on hand for the first meeting or two. Read more here. We’d also recommend not keeping them in cages; it’s very stressful for chickens to be kept in separate cages. Make sure you provide them a coop with plenty of room, and access to a yard where they can forage. When they can enjoy their normal chicken behaviors like foraging, scratching, dust bathing, sun bathing and so on, there will be less aggression, and hopefully no one else will be hurt! Read more about aggression here, and pecking order here.

cat September 24th, 2014

what does it mean when older chickens are perfefctly still for 20-3o- min, staring , niot moving a muscle ?

Lissa September 25th, 2014

Cat, it can mean a number of things… including that she may just be taking a nap. She may also be getting herself ready to lay, or she may be broody (wanting to hatch her eggs). It’s also possible she’s sick, but there are usually some other symptoms, like her comb may be pale or there may be changes in her droppings. You can read about what symptoms and behaviors to watch out for here on our website.

Britany September 25th, 2014

When I was around 7 I was so excited to take my clutch of chicks out into the grass. As soon as the sun hit them they fell over. I cried and rushed over thinking I had somehow instantly kill them. As soon as I got closer, my shadow cast over them they hopped up chirping happily. I learned quickly that day the warm sun is a chicken’s favorite place to nap.

Mary September 25th, 2014

Full crops. I’d inherited adult hens a couple of weeks before, but somehow I hadn’t noticed their crops. I went out to visit them ( = make sure they’re still alive) during the early days, and saw a TUMOUR sticking out of my poor chook’s chest! It took some home-googling to realise that this off-centre lump is not life-threatening and simply indicates that someone’s had a good day.

Whew. Even now I look at the huge crops in the evening and wonder how I missed those for the first two weeks.

Denice September 25th, 2014

I had read about impacted crop and thought for sure my birds were suffering from that one night shortly after I moved them to their big girl coop. Their crops were bulging and they couldn’t even fly straight to get up to their roost. They would try to jump and fly and would just sort of tumble to the side clumsily. I had put out grit for them, but what if they weren’t eating it and got long pieces of grass twisted in their crops?! Would I have to try to empty their crops in the morning? Would they die? Nope. They were just little piggies and stuffed themselves full!! By morning, their crops were back to normal.

Emily Davis September 26th, 2014

The first time I saw one of my Leghorns throw up water really freaked me out. After a little research I learned that they don’t have the slave to hold so much so it just comes back up. We’re in Texas so they drink a lot. Now that it’s cooled off some, I haven’t seen any “vomiting”. We did just have a lovely run in with respiratory infection. We have 16 chickens and 10 are only about 8 weeks. One baby had a bad eye. Luckily that was an injury – isolation. One silkie isolated as soon as I saw the nasal discharge and swollen eye. Too late. Unfortunately lost Little Rosie. Her 2 buddies (a Dark Cornish and a Barred Rock) went to isolation. EVERYBODY went on meds. Took them off today. Hopefully it’s over. Unfortunately can’t eat our eggs for 2 weeks now 🙁 and one of the Leghorns lays double yolks. As long as they live, I’m good. If anybody had any tips on respiratory illness, I’m open to suggestions. I just don’t want it to come back with a vengeance or, God forbid, it not be over. I love my girls and would be devastated!

Lissa September 26th, 2014

Glad to hear they’re recovering–you must have been worried! Tips on respiratory illness: those are difficult to give, simply because there are so many different kinds, and what works for one may not work for another, the same way antibiotics will work for you if you have something caused by bacteria, but not if you have something viral. And even then, certain antibiotics work better against certain illnesses. Since respiratory illnesses can be so serious in chickens, it’s usually best to get veterinary advice. Your vet can determine what specific illness they have, and recommend treatment options that will work for that illness. In the mean time, the information at this link about what symptoms can indicate serious illness in chickens may help you out.

Chris September 27th, 2014

I thought my first sunbath was a little creepy to witness. It appeared they were waiting for the mothership to arrive.

Julie January 20th, 2015

I’ve had at least three ‘OMG-It’s-A-Dead-Chick-Someone-Ring-000-Now!’

My first batch of chicks were three weeks old, and I, not seeing how their sleeping/death poses actually looked like until three days after I bought them, started hyperventilating when I DID. One chick was sprawled across the floor of the brooder, dead style, and what upset me even more was the fact that every so minutes one of the other chicks would give this dead/sleeping one a peck…

So imagine my depression when I returned a few minutes later, and the chicks were piled on top of one another like sacks! My heart had risen into my throat, and suddenly I started seeing every chick being split in half… Turns out that was just me starting to collapse -_-

Michaela April 25th, 2015

As first time chicken owners, I’m so glad to have stumbled across your blog! My husband and I are sitting here chuckling but also kind of relieved to find out that our 1 week old chicks aren’t the only sound sleepers out there.

Melanie April 30th, 2015

This article is awesome! -and thank you so much. I haven’t even finished reading all of it yet. I just took my chicks out for the first time for a couple hours to scratch, poke around and have some fun in the sun. Of course, I knew about dust bathing from prior reading, and it was my first thought when I observed two of them (a little older with feathers just coming in) start to fluff, lay on their sides, sleepy blink their eyes and act, well, weird. One was so odd, I thought she may have sprang her wing in all the fun new excitement. My heart did jump in my throat! lol – She seemed okay afterward. So, I was sure it was dust bath behavior. However, I still came in and jumped online to check it out to make sure all is okay. The title of your article is fantastic! I clicked, :)Again, thank you.

David May 17th, 2015

so…here’s something someone on this forum may be able to help me out with: I like to hold my chickens (I’m a city boy transplant who is loving the country life) One chicken in particular loves to be held and petted. However, twice now it has laid an egg without a shell on me! Has anyone ever experienced this or know why she does this? I love holding my hen but not so sure I’m that into the premature eggulation.

Lissa May 26th, 2015

She must be relaxed if she’s laying while you hold her. But the shell-less egg is a bit of a concern. If she’s just begun laying, it’s probably just a hiccup as her reproductive system gets going. But if she’s been laying for a while, it could be a nutritional issue. Read more about the causes of shell-less eggs in our Chicken Help pages.

Shirley Walker May 22nd, 2015

Hi. I was just given a Frizzle hen who was too noisy to be kept in the city. She hollers when people come close (cack, cack, cack) and is really dominant. All our other hens are scared of her. She is not really mean but can sure stand her ground, puffing up. I wonder if she is scared or just crazy. She doesn’t seem to do it outside. Any suggestions? We have only had her a couple of days.

Lissa May 26th, 2015

Most hens, as you know, are very quiet. However, occasionally there will be a personality that differs. It sounds like she was loud in her first residence, too, so it doesn’t seem like it would be related to the move. If she is a frizzle cochin, then cochins are often quite broody, and broody hens can be loud and cranky from time to time. She may be trying to lay claim to a nest she likes, a place to raise baby chicks. If you are interested in adding to your flock, and your hen is broody, you might see if she’d like to raise the babies. I had a hen who was continually cranky until she raised a brood. When their natural instincts are frustrated, they can be restless… and some hens just have a stronger instinct than others. If you have fertile eggs, you can let her hatch them, or you can have her raise chicks you’ve purchased. You can read about the special considerations related to having a broody hen raise shipped chicks in our Chicken Help pages.

Cassie June 10th, 2015

Thank god for these posts. My 6 week old chicken gang have just moved into their permanent outdoor coop and I haven’t slept in 2 days because I’ve been so worried (even though their coop is well beyond built to keep predators out and chickens in- im a worried mom!) I went out this morning to check on the girls and almost had a heart attack because one of them looked like they were seizing. Thankfully I came across these posts and once I realized it was my first time seeing the girls dust bathing I could only laugh at myself AND all of these awesome stories! Be well all of you chicken lovers!

Lisa September 22nd, 2015

This is such a funny blog, makes me laugh so much every time I read it! So true! Thank you ????

FiascoFarms March 15th, 2016

So glad for this post! I just got my first chicks and three of them were Laying on their stomachs, wings out. I thought they had expired, but they were just sleeping. Good to know they’ll continue to be their odd little selves!

Kami walton March 21st, 2016

I am so worried about the temp of the coop. I just went out to check in my chicks that range from 4-6 weeks and they have kicked all of the bedding out from underneath the heat lamp. I am so worried that they are going to freeze to death. The temp is supposed to get down to 30 tonight and in the 20’s the next couple of nights. I have never had chickens before and have been stressed since moving the to the coop.

Lissa March 23rd, 2016

It can be stressful, for sure! Isn’t it surprising how easy they are to fall in love with and worry about? 🙂 Have you monitored what the temperature gets down to in the coop at those temps? It’s tough to give advice from here when I can’t see your set-up, but generally speaking, of course, so long as the brooder area remains an appropriate temperature–and so long as it’s also draft-free–it really won’t matter how cold it is outside. Maybe it will relieve your stress a little to know that nearly everyone stresses when transitioning young birds to the outside coop.

Phoebe Poremba April 27th, 2016

Hiii I just got my first chicks ONLY HOURS AGO!!!:D ,2 amicaunas,rhode island reds,and black austrlings .Some have been falling over and also doing this thing that looks like they’re stretching but I’m still worried .I don’t want to mess anything up

Help a newby out ?;D

Lissa April 28th, 2016

Hi, Phoebe! I’m glad you found this post helpful. The frequently asked questions in the Chicken Care category of our Chicken Help pages might also be of assistance.

helen bridges August 15th, 2016

have my first batch of chicks as well, and all the “funny” above has happened to me. they are 2 months old now, and outdoors in the run/coop. When will their first molt begin? 6 reds and 6 Buffs.
thanks for the Post-they are great!

Lissa August 17th, 2016

You’re welcome! Chicks molt a few times during their first year. First they molt their down and grow in their first feathers, and by 6 months old or so they have often gone through another molt. Depending on the time of year they come to maturity, they may or may not go through the regular, annual molt in late summer/fall with any adult chickens you have in your flock.

Saqra Raybuck August 17th, 2016

Cecum poop.
I own parrots and automatically watch their poop for changes. Parrots usually have consistently formed poop.

The chickens were making lovely well formed “mushrooms” of poop, but i would find horrible, incredibly smelly globs of this nasty, runny poop.

I followed the chickens around for days watching them poop trying to figure out which bird was horribly sick.

kathy connors hayes August 26th, 2016

The first thing that scared me was there first time my babies, decided to Sun bathe. They were just decided to lay on their sides to enjoy the sun. The next thing was when the first time that my fluffy butts where free ranging and were attacked and 1/2 of my flock was killed before they started laying.

paul gardiner August 30th, 2016

I love my chickens.They have been such a comfort to me since I lost the love of my life two years ago.I especially love my hen ellie when she lays on my chest and naps with me.

Wendy G. November 1st, 2016

Ok, I need some help!! My first batch of chicks, 1 hatched
on her own and is doing fine. Another one was looking at
me through her shell so I gently helped her out. She/ he
Seems week, can’t stand without falling over and ends
up on its back. I have Bounce back electrolyte solution
on hand and gave some of it, but not seen improvement
Any ideas?!?! Thank you!

Lissa November 3rd, 2016

Our best advice on caring for weak chicks is here. Sometimes a chick who has been helped out might have a bleeding navel. Be sure it doesn’t get infected. You can read our recommendations for that here. Sure hope your little one will be okay!

Jen November 26th, 2016

The first time we felt our chick’s full crop we thought it was a tumor!!

Tanja December 18th, 2016

This was such a funny read I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I have an indoor pet chicken behaving very strange today. Giving me the heebie jeebies ;-). Thank god I am not the only chicken mother sometimes freeking out by odd behavior. 🙂

Rebecca Zimmerman January 5th, 2017

Me and my FFA class raised chickens and someone stupidly put the water container on one but by the time we found it it was as flat as a pancake but its insides were still inside it but i thought if something was flattened its insides burst out so why didnt that happen

Lissa January 26th, 2017

I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your little chick. To answer your question, I just have to speculate. My *guess* is that perhaps the skin stretched a little. You might ask your FFA teacher or a science teacher to see if they have a better guess. Again, so sorry you lost one. Many sympathies to you and your classmates. That must have been upsetting.

Paul May 10th, 2017

I laughed out loud a couple of times reading this blog. Excellent stuff!

We have three chickens all about 40 weeks old. There isn’t really anywhere truly dusty for them to have a bath so they hope in a large sack of soil we have and try to bathe in that. Soil everywhere! But hey, they appear to love it 🙂

amy May 18th, 2017

???????? I lost my beautiful little baby girl, ebony today to coryza. This is my first time keeping chicks and I did all I could to save her but sadly it was not enough. I can’t stop crying especially as she died in my arms while I was frantically trying to save her. I can’t get over the agony she went through, that was horrific Her head swelled up so bad, she couldn’t breathe and couldn’t eat anything. I treated her like my own baby and its killing me that I couldnt save her. Reading this blog makes me feel better as I’ve had a good laugh admidst my still falling tear . Thanks. Its great

Lissa May 31st, 2017

So sorry to hear about your loss! It’s heartbreaking to lose any, especially when you’ve tried so hard to save her. Many sympathies. <3

Sadie Meazell June 3rd, 2017

I am laughing at this blog. I have experienced both baby chick fall out and dustbathng with horror. The worst was when I found my Speckled Sussex Dot laying on the stones in front of the run on a hot Texas day. I thought for sure she was dead. I went out there and stood over her, mourning her loss and thinking I have to pick up her poor body and bury it. Well, when I touched her, she jumped up and screeched at me like “What the …” It added more than a few grey hairs to this old hen, I can tell you.

Lissa June 5th, 2017

Oh, my—I sympathize!

Betsy February 17th, 2018

The scariest moment with my chickens is when they molted and stopped laying eggs. I thought they were attacked by a fox or something and then escaped. But then I researched it and it turns out they were just molting.

Gina Marie Davis March 23rd, 2018

OMG laying on the back! Had my first baby do this!! I have been flipping out over this! First it was born with curly toes so the momma pushed it out of the nest. Thank God hubby found it in time (we let our hens raise all our babies) it was almost dead from cold he brought it back by the grace of God now we have tape casted it’s feet and they are straightening out and now the sleeping on its back! I will freak out if this baby does not make it it has been through so much already Pray for it ????

Summerbunch April 4th, 2018

Omygosh! I seriously laughed out loud reading the post about how the chickens freaked you out! we are picking up our order for 10 baby chicks next week so I’ve been doing a lot of research to inform myself. This will be our first go at raising chickens. Thanks for the heads up and the laugh

Krystal April 14th, 2018

I have a free range rooster, his name is Johnny, he is making this barking noise and squatting, i notice ig dingle berries hanging, swinging from his bottom. He seems healthy, just acting weird. He is so fast I can’t seem to catch him. I was able to grab a long stick and tap on the large lumps dangling from him and they seemed rather weighty. Its not like a regular messy chicken bottom ive seen, none of my other chicken wanna help him out either and give him a grooming, which ive seen them do to each other. I can’t find anything relating to this issue. Hes a happy guy, ranges all over for bug and treats from nature, but he wil sudden stop somewher hunch down and do this barking cooing noise ive never heard before. He also looks as if he may be trying to poop as he’s doing these actions but i do t see any poop happening. I worry about him. Please tell me someone know whats going on with Johnnys dangling poo booty.

Lissa April 19th, 2018

Hi, Krystal! We aren’t vets and can’t diagnose Johnny, but painful excretion and a messy bum can be symptoms of serious problems. We do recommend you get him to a vet for a checkup, or at least find someone who can do a fecal smear. It could be something as simple as worms, which is easy to treat at home, but you’ll need to know what sort of worms, so you’ll know what sort of wormer to get. And even if it is something simple like that, if he has a bad case, your other birds are probably like to have a heavy load, too. We hope he’ll be okay!

[…] Dust-bathing chickens are laugh-inducing hilarity that will certainly cultivate your soil a little. But you also don’t want big holes in your growing garden. And although you can certainly wash off the veggies, if you can avoid having them them showered with the dirt your chickens toss around, then all for the better. […]

Heather Kotar May 11th, 2020

Thanks for the info …the “dust bathing” just happened 😳
I was ready to lose my mind I thought it was seizing!

Michelle November 15th, 2020

I’m so glad you wrote this! I went outside today and as soon as my chickens came out of the hutch they plopped over and stretched their legs out. I thought something was wrong with them, so I went to Google and found your article. Theyre sun bathing!

Forest December 16th, 2020

Chicken sunbathing can actually look horrifying at first glance! Glad to hear your girls were enjoying a nice tanning session!

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