Are Chickens Jealous? Do They Have Feelings?

There’s no doubt that chickens are on the weirder side of the bird spectrum, but that’s exactly what makes these domestic fowls so unique. Chickens demonstrate a fair share of quirks when it comes to behavior, but one of the most interesting aspects of this department is emotions. 

Are Chickens Jealous? Like many birds and mammals, chickens possess an impressive level of intelligence and emotional sophistication that contradicts popular misconceptions of them being silly or stupid creatures. They have the ability to feel pain, sympathy, and fear.

Let’s take a closer look at the feelings that chickens experience throughout their lifetime.

Do Chickens have Feelings?

Yes, chickens do experience and express emotions. We’re not just talking about basic emotions here, but actual empathy for fellow chickens within their flocks. 

For example, a hen will feel depressed when isolated from the rest of the flock, and a mother hen will feel stressed when separated from her chicks. Besides a strong maternal instinct, chickens demonstrate strong connections with their flockmates and, sometimes, even their owners.

You might even be surprised to learn that chickens can also feel happiness and sadness and happiness, which is repeatedly often concluded when observing the way these birds eat and behave in general.

While this piece of information seems rather obvious to owners who have kept chickens for a long time, it’s not as clear to the average person.

Do Chickens Feel Empathy?

do chickens have feelings
Like cats and dogs, chickens do experience feelings.

Chickens don’t just experience basic feelings, but rather deep emotions on a more sophisticated level. Dr. Joanne  Edgar, a researcher from the University of Bristol, proved that chickens have profound feelings in her study.

Along with her team, Dr. Edgar conducted an experiment that aims to simulate stress in chicks. The mother hens were separated from their chicks somewhere they could see and hear their younglings, but they couldn’t touch them or anything. 

The baby chicks were subjected to gentle puffs of air, which made them feel distressed. Interestingly enough, the mother hens perfectly reflected the responses of the chicks. The heart rate and temperature of the mother birds notably increased when the chicks were disturbed.

Sharing the emotional state of another being is one of the most significant characteristics of empathy. So not only did Dr. Edgar manage to observe strong emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses from chickens, but she also demonstrated that adult hens are capable of showing empathy

Additionally, the mother hens kept making maternal vocalization calls throughout the experiment as an attempt to call their chicks back to them. This confirmed that besides empathy, hens have intense maternal instincts that allow them to experience the pain of their chicks.

Dr. Edgar did another study that showed how feelings in chickens can impact their behavior. In fact, mother hens play a big role in shaping their chicks’ behavior and have the ability to reduce their chicks’ response to stress inducers.

Are Chickens Jealous Birds?

Yes, chickens do feel jealous. As we established above, chickens experience an array of feelings that includes jealousy, empathy, fear, sadness, and more.

It’s quite common for chickens to feel jealous if you’re paying extra attention to a particular member of the flock, and they might even fight because of this.

Why Do Chickens Get Jealous? 

There’s an explanation for jealousy in chicken, and it’s best explained through the pecking order of the flock. What’s a pecking order you ask? Well, here’s a simple breakdown:

As social animals, chickens have a certain system that establishes the hierarchy of their community by pecking – which’s why it’s called ‘pecking order’.

Bigger and stronger chickens belong on top of the chain and are usually more aggressive. They practically “bully” the rest of the flock to assert their higher position in society. 

If you own a rooster, then he’ll be the flock’s “alpha”. Otherwise, a hen will dominate the other chickens and climb the social ladder.

You can definitely observe this order when adding a new chicken to the flock. The process may not go very smoothly because the newbie doesn’t have a social status yet. If you don’t introduce it properly, older chickens will try to display their dominance by pecking, possibly beating up the newbie to death.

That being said, if you’re planning to be closely involved in your flock of chickens and not just have them around as barnyard animals, then you need to be prepared to be perceived as a member of the flock. 

Not just a normal member though, but the head rooster position (it doesn’t matter whether you’re a male or a  female). As flock animals, your chickens will naturally place you on top of the hierarchy since you provide the food.

In this light, it’s understandable how jealousy may spark among the chickens when they notice their alpha figure paying extra attention to certain members, even if you didn’t mean it. Your chickens just don’t like sharing you!

Do Chickens Feel Sad or Lonely?

Yes, chickens get sad and lonely, especially when it comes to their flockmates. They get so attached that they feel lonely and depressed when a flockmate dies.

That being said, some chickens simply don’t care and will try to make the corpse of the dead their next meal if there isn’t enough food around. However, these birds experience loneliness in most cases and become desperately in need of the company of other chickens to ease the sadness. 

If you own a chicken that’s the last of a flock, adding a new chick that’ll provide some company can help ease the trauma.

Several studies have proven the fact that chickens recover faster from stress and sadness when there’s some company around to provide a sense of safety.

  • Bonus fact – when a hen gets older towards the end of her life, she prefers to stay in a quieter place away from the rest of the birds. Other chickens will visit her one by one during this time.

Both chickens will just maintain eye contact and the healthy bird will make soft coos in the dying hen’s ear.

The closest friends of the deceased hen may mourn her death for a longer time compared to regular flockmates, and they may make sounds as if calling for their late friend. 

If a hen is grieving hens, she’ll avoid socializing with her flockmates, becoming less active and quieter than normal.

Non-grieving chickens will just go back to their usual daily routine. After all, the show must go on. 

On the contrary, some hens get so heart-broken that they may suddenly die themselves.

Do Chickens Have Personalities?

Yes, chickens have personalities similar to pets (such as dogs and cats) and some primates. These personalities are distinct and can range from chicken to chicken, and from flock to flock.

Personality, per definition, refers to individual differences in a group of traits and it’s consistent over time. There’s a lot of evidence supporting the occurrence of individual personalities in chickens from small farmers, sanctuaries, and people who keep backyard chickens.

For one, chickens are super close with their families, and mother hens can get seriously protective towards their chicks. 

These fowls have complex social systems (like the pecking order we talked about earlier), relatively clear means of communication (such as numerous types of vocalizations), and they recognize the connection between cause and effect.

Additionally, each chicken understands his or her status within their flock’s social structure. It’s actually pretty common that you find flocks larger than 100 members, where birds accurately remember each other! Yes, chickens do have better memories than most people give them credit for.

Chickens might actually possess unique personalities that are linked to their position in the pecking order, according to animal behavioral researchers.

Some chickens are more ‘out there’, while others are shy and cautious. Some like the company of humans, while others don’t.

Wrap Up

So are chickens jealous birds? Well. you can bet on it. Chickens don’t only feel jealous, but they’re capable of experiencing a range of deep feelings including empathy, fear, sadness, and happiness.