Do Chickens Play Dead When Attacked?

Chickens are very sensitive and nervous animals. As our chickens’ keepers, it’s up to us to keep our chickens safe and healthy. Chickens are easily scared or injured because they don’t have any way of protecting or defending themselves as other animals do. They have many natural predators, so when they’re attacked, how do they respond? Do they play dead like opossums?

Do Chickens Play Dead When Attacked

All animals, including humans, have three reactions to traumatic events; fight, flight, or freeze. Unlike other animals, chickens tend to freeze when they feel threatened. Chickens can play dead when they are attacked or feel like they’re in danger, but they are most likely going into shock.

It is common for chickens to go into shock if they’ve just experienced a traumatizing event such as an animal attack.

Why Does A Chicken Play Dead

Chickens are inherently very nervous and cautious creatures. It’s because they have many natural predators such as bears, weasels, raccoons, skunks, etc., with basically no defense. Because of their limited defense, they might play dead to confuse their predators.

Hens have also been known to play dead to avoid male suitors. They will respond to unwanted attention by lying motionless on the ground. This confuses the roosters and causes them to lose interest.

Here’s a video of a chicken playing dead to avoid the rooster. As soon as the rooster walks away, the hen gets up and walks away.

Most of the time, especially after or during an animal attack, it will appear as if your chicken is playing dead, but it has gone into shock. Chickens will often go into shock after experiencing an attack as it is a traumatic event, especially if one of the chickens have died.

Signs Of Shock In Chickens

According to Your Chickens, chickens are very sensitive and emotional but very intelligent animals. Their entire lives revolve around finding ways to be happy or experience pleasure. Chickens can become bored and frustrated if they don’t have enough to do or are cooped up for too long. Chickens can also experience complex emotions such as fear, distress, and depression.

When a chicken is at the end of its life, they’ll isolate themselves from the flock. The flock will line up to say their goodbyes before going back to daily activities. After a chicken’s passing, the ones they were closest to can fall into a deep depression and even die shortly after for unknown reasons.

After traumatic events, chickens can develop post-traumatic stress disorder. If an animal attacked them, they might cower in the coop and refuse to come outside. They will be in visible distress and paranoid of the event happening all over again. Traumatic experiences can even cause your chickens to have bad dreams and sleepless nights. 

Chickens can even go into shock. Chickens in shock are commonly mistaken as “playing dead.” Chickens can go into shock after traumatic events such as an animal attack and must be treated quickly to ensure survival.

Signs of shock in chickens include pale wattles and/or comb, open mouth breathing, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, listlessness, weak pulse, collapse, or a stunned appearance.

Some chickens will even appear to be completely dead. If this seems like the case, wait a few hours before burying your chicken to be sure it is really dead and not just in shock.

What To Do If Your Chicken Is In Shock

Shock is a severe problem as it can lead to death if not treated immediately. If you have the chance or the option, you can take your chicken to an emergency animal hospital where they will be able to revive your chicken. There are ways to revive your chicken at home too.

The most important thing after a chicken goes into shock is making them feel safe. According to Community Chickens, treatment for shock includes keeping them warm and separating them from the rest of the flock.

To keep your chicken warm and provide an extra sense of safety. You can wrap it up in a few towels or blankets. To separate them, move your ill chicken into a warm brooder or a heating room for severe cases of shock.

Adding electrolytes to your chicken’s water or giving them coconut water or unflavored Pedialyte might help speed up recovery. 

Avoid feeding your chicken until it is fully alert and back to normal.

You can also try bringing your flock in to be with your sick chicken, only with your supervision as they might bully her. Chickens associate being with their flock with safety. 

Chickens may feel uncomfortable or lonely if they are left without company for too long. That’s why it’s not ideal to only to have one chicken. 

If you don’t notice any improvement or the condition worsens, it’s important that you seek help from a veterinarian to seek out a more effective treatment plan.

After your chicken fully revives, you might notice that it will be a little depressed or distressed. This is normal and will sometimes resolve itself within a few months of regular activity.

Final Word

Chickens can play dead if they are attacked or feel like they’re in danger. Hens can also play dead to avoid their suitors. Most of the time, when chickens are playing dead, they are actually in shock.

Shock is an emergency medical condition that can lead to death if not treated immediately. Chickens usually go into shock after traumatic events such as being attacked by an animal. 

Signs of shock include pale wattles and/or comb, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, appearing dead, collapse, and a few more.

To treat shock, you must isolate your chicken and make sure it’s warm and well wrapped to provide a sense of security. If you notice your chicken’s condition worsening or not improving, you should take them to the emergency vet to seek out a more effective treatment plan.

After recovering from the shock, your chicken may fall into a depression, have a constate state of distress, or develop post-traumatic stress disorder. These are fairly common for chickens after experiencing traumatic events and mostly resolve within a few months of regular activity.

Sometimes a chicken might also pass away suddenly for no apparent reason after recovering from the shock. Chickens are very sensitive and emotional animals and have a hard time processing traumatic events.

If you believe your chicken is playing dead, keep a close eye to ensure they are not really in shock. Seek help from a vet if you are unsure or have any more questions.

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