It often happens: you walk out into your chicken coop and catch a chicken in the middle of a snooze. Panic mode sets in. Is your chicken alive? Is she sick? What can you do?! But, yes, chickens do take naps.
There is some pretty neat science behind how chickens sleep and nap. Let’s take a look!
Do Chickens Take Naps?
All living things need to sleep. Sleep is the body’s natural way of recharging and re-energizing. Sleep allows a chicken to repair and to prepare for activities to come.
Sleep is essential for chickens and their overall happiness. Although chickens are considered to be domesticated, they are still animals of instinct.
They rely on these instincts to stay alive in the great outdoors and will be careful when they nap.
Chickens will sleep anywhere! They will sleep in the rain, on your back porch, in a chair, in a wheelbarrow, pretty much anywhere.
Crazy chicken fact: chickens can be awake and asleep at the same time. We aren’t talking about daydreaming here either.
Have you ever seen a chicken sleeping with one eye open and one eye closed and wondered what the deal is with that?
Here’s the scoop on chicken sleep: when chickens are not tucked away safe and sound inside their coops, they are exposed to the dangers outside.
Chickens have many predators, including coyotes, rats, mice, hawks, owls, raccoons, and snakes.
Taking a few snoozes throughout the day can put them at risk when they are out of their coop, exposed to the outside world.
Therefore, naps CAN be risky for your chickens. Luckily, chickens have the ability to both sleep and be awake at the same time.
REM Chicken Sleep
Chickens, like humans, experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. For chickens, REM sleep only lasts a few seconds at a time.
A human’s REM sleep can last up to an hour. During REM sleep, dreams occur. It means that chickens are undoubtedly capable of dreaming.
Fun fact: a chicken’s brain is active while dreaming, so much so that it is just as active when the hen is sleeping as when she is awake.
Wait, can chickens dream? Yes! That REM stage of sleep signifies dreaming.
Slow Wave Chicken Sleep
When chickens sleep, and it is deep sleep, this is known as slow-wave sleep. Any memories from the day before are consolidated and stored.
The chicken’s brain then resets, making it available to absorb new information the next day. If chickens miss out on slow-wave sleep, they have to catch up at a later time.
A chicken may miss out on sleep if they are up most of the night due to a predator being near. It is one reason a chicken may nap.
Chickens can pull off slow-wave sleep in a very short period. This means that a quick 30-second nap may be very beneficial for your chicken.
Sleep With One Eye Open
As previously mentioned, chickens can and will sleep with one eye opened and one eye closed.
This is known formally as unihemispheric slow-wave sleep and means that half of the chicken’s brain will rest while the other half is awake and alert in case a predator happens to show up.
A chicken’s brain anatomy is divided into two separate hemispheres.
Oddly enough, each eye is connected and operated by the opposing hemisphere, meaning that the left brain hemisphere controls the right eye, and the right brain hemisphere manipulates the left eye.
It is what allows for a chicken to rest one hemisphere while the other stays awake and alert. Talk about multitasking!
It is even speculated that while chickens sleep on a roost at night. Some of the chickens in the row on the perch will keep one eye open on each side to keep a lookout.
It is a “behavioral” decision to keep one eye open, and one eye closed or give in and let both sides of the brain sleep.
When a chicken naps during the day, they may always want to stay alert and only let one side rest.
How Chickens Nap
Chickens may nap throughout the day or at set schedules. If you have a large flock, you will notice they sleep together as a group. These birds will nap in mid-morning or after lunch.
It’s entirely normal for your chickens to go to bed when the sun sets, but many of them will nap throughout the day.
Reasons Chickens Nap Throughout The Day
Longer Days: Chickens regulate their sleeping patterns according to the number of daylight hours in the day. In the winter, the days are longer than in the summer, which means they sleep less in the summer and more in the winter.
Age: Younger and older birds will sleep more than young, healthy chickens or roosters.
Lack of Sleep: Unlike humans, chickens won’t walk around sleep-deprived. If they had a rough night because of a predator, they will nap during the day to ensure they are well rested.
A Sick Chicken
When you catch a chicken sleeping way more than usual, there is a reason to be concerned. An active, healthy chicken will rise with the sun and be active during daylight hours while taking short naps throughout the day.
If you pay attention to your chicken’s usual sleep pattern, you will know when a chicken is sleeping a little bit more than usual and when you should be concerned.
Chickens, for the most part, are very active and lively. Naps here and there are normal, but sleeping for hours point to lethargy, which is never good.
A lethargic chicken will spend less time doing chicken things with the other chickens. It means less scratching for food, less time exploring, less time roaming around, less dust bathing, and less playing with each other.
If your chicken is sick and lethargic, he or she won’t budge much if startled or disturbed while sleeping.
If your chicken has completely forgone foraging and sits and naps all day, this is a sign that something is wrong.
Foraging is when chickens rush around like made men searching for worms, crumbs, bugs, and other things to eat in the dirt.
As we learned, chickens take quick naps here and there, and that is normal. But if you notice a chicken by itself for a long time, this can be concerning.
Chickens like to stay together in the flock. They may drift off alone for a bit for a quick nap but will promptly return. If a chicken is solitary for a while, that chicken certainly requires some TLC.
Chickens, even when napping, are alert. If you have a chicken that seems to be unaware of its surroundings, this is alarming.
When lethargy sets in due to a sickness, a chicken will lose his or her awareness of what is going on around them. They may seem disoriented and confused and may even let you handle them more often than usual.
For a lethargic chicken, you must examine him or her thoroughly, looking for injuries.
Common things to check for that could be making your chicken feel unwell are mites, lice, crop problems, not eating, worms, respiratory issue, or coccidiosis. If you’re new to owning chickens, you should consult your avian veterinarian.
Where Do Chickens Nap?
Chickens will nap anywhere they can find a quiet spot. In the summer, they’ll likely seek shelter in the shade to take a quick nap. If it’s cold or rainy outside, they may go inside the coop for a few minutes or find a spot that shelters them from the elements.
For a quick nap, it’s not uncommon to see your chickens in a huddle napping on the floor like puppies.
Facts About Napping Chickens
Chickens do not sleep or nap standing up. If you are to walk upon a napping chicken, they will be snuggled down or perched.
A chicken can naturally become more physically exhausted on hot days and will require quick little naps here and there to keep them powering through the day. The heat can be exhausting!
Laying an egg is hard work! After a hen lays her egg, rest is essential. You may notice that your chicken rushes to eat, drink, and then nap after the egg is laid.
After a chicken eats is a typical time to catch a chicken taking a nap. Just like humans, eating can cause illicit sleepiness.
Chickens nap, and it is a normal part of being a chicken! Chickens, like other living things, rely on sleep for proper function all day long.
Chickens have a remarkable ability to keep one half of their brain awake and aware, on the lookout for predators, while the other half rests.
Chickens also accomplish a lot while sleeping for short periods of time! A quick power nap may only be a few seconds for a chicken, but it sure can achieve a lot in giving them that extra boost!
Just be sure to pay attention to what is normal and not when it comes to your chicken’s sleeping patterns! A napping chicken could, but does not always, signify a sick chicken.