If you’re new to the world of raising backyard chickens, you may not be familiar with their everyday behaviors. Behavior that is normal for them can often be misinterpreted. For instance, “why do chickens squat when you pet them” doesn’t necessarily mean they are scared of you. We’ll take a look at what it means and why they do it.
Why Do Chickens Squat When You Pet Them?
Squatting is a sign of submission mating behavior and a sign that your hen is ready to lay an egg. If there are roosters in the flock, it’s likely a sign your hen is ready to mate. Hens will see you as the rooster if none are in the flock and squat to show a sign of submission.
Let’s take a closer look at this behavior and what it means.
Does Your Chicken Squat Whenever You Go to Pet Them?
If you notice your chicken squatting whenever you come over to pet them or even walk by them. You might be wondering if that is normal. Some owners may mistake this behavior and chalk it up to a chicken being fearful of them.
Some may even assume they are content with your presence and want to bask in the attention you bestow on them.
However, this is not the case, as it is common for chickens and signifies that they will be laying an egg soon.
When there is no rooster around, it is more likely that your chickens will see you as the head of the flock. This causes them to react to you in the same manner in which they would a rooster.
What Does a Chicken Squatting Mean?
A hen squatting close to the ground when you approach them is a sign of submission. It is also a sign that she will begin egg-laying soon.
When a chicken crouches or squats low to the ground, can be alarming for some chicken owners. Especially, if they have had the chickens since they were chicks and never saw this behavior before.
It may seem like a new, foreign behavior. One that makes them seem either docile and ready to receive your love and attention or one that makes them seem too frightened to move.
Neither is the case.
When a chicken squats, it is more of an instinctual response to its reproductive maturity. It is also a symbol of its status in the flock’s pecking order.
When Do Chickens Reach Reproductive Maturity?
If your chickens seem to be engaging in this behavior, it will likely begin to occur around five months of age.
Around this time, your chicken will likely lay its first egg, reaching reproductive maturity anywhere between sixteen to twenty-four weeks of age.
As your chicken gets closer to laying its eggs. They will begin to squat in the presence of their male counterparts, roosters. It is a welcoming gesture for the male to mate with them.
Typically, your rooster will engage your chicken by performing a mating dance.
A receptive chicken will crouch low to the ground when he performs this and flatten her back out. Her tail will lift, and she will spread her wings out slightly. This position makes it easier for the rooster to mate with her and fertilize her eggs.
If your chicken is engaging in this squatting behavior and you want to confirm that they will soon lay an egg, you can check for the following egg-laying signs from your chicken:
- Change in Combs and Wattles– Many chicken owners can tell when their chickens are about to lay eggs simply by the color and size of their combs and wattles. This is because a laying chicken will have an increase in blood flow. This increase in blood flow causes the wattles and combs to turn a richer shade of red than if they were not laying eggs. It will also cause the wattles and combs to swell up and appear more prominent than usual.
- Investigating Nesting Box– Besides their physical appearance as a key sign to their impending egg-laying, this is another behavior your chicken may exhibit. As they get close to laying eggs, you will notice a chicken inspecting the nesting area more so than usual. You may even notice them pulling out their own feathers and adding them to the nesting area as they prep it up.
- Pelvic Bones Separate– Much like humans about to give birth, your chicken’s pelvic bones will shift and separate just before they lay an egg. This occurs so that the egg can be easily passed. Experienced chicken owners can check the distance of the pelvic bones with a quick inspection and know whether an egg is on the way soon.
- Following the Rooster– When a chicken is about to lay an egg, it is only natural for them to want to be around a rooster. Since this is the only way for the egg to be fertilized, not only will they squat in his presence, but they will also follow him around and try to stay close to him.
- Increased Appetite– Another telltale sign that your chicken will lay an egg soon is that they will begin to eat more than usual. This is because a chicken needs to take in four grams of calcium a day to create a single eggshell. If your chicken is nearing the age of egg-laying, you can expect them to have an uptick in appetite. (Keep in mind that if a chicken does not get all the necessary nutrients they need during egg-laying. It can adversely affect its overall health. As they divert the nutrients, they ingest away from their own body and into the eggs. This makes it all the more critical that their feed supply them with essential nutrients for egg-laying.)
If it is a Mating Behavior, Why is Your Chicken Squatting When You Pet Them?
This is where submission comes into play. As your chick grows into a young adult chicken, you will notice that your chicken is squatting whenever you come around despite species differences.
It is especially true with the absence of a rooster. As a result, your chicken will likely treat you as the head of the flock. She will submit to your presence in the same fashion that she would a rooster.
The Gesture is Simply Instinctual
Side Note: You may also notice that the head hen may get the same reaction from her fellow flock members if there is no rooster. She may even mount them! This is completely normal and part of the pecking order.
It is not uncommon for a hen of higher social status to mount a chicken of lesser status. It is a show of dominance.
Even though you may be a different species, you are also the main caretaker of the entire flock. You supply them with food, shelter, water, and attention/affection (taking on the same role as the rooster).
Even with a rooster in the flock, your hens may still submit to your presence when they are in the middle of egg production.
As mentioned, a hen will even submit to another hen if they are the dominant of the two. This squatting behavior when you pet your chicken is nothing to worry about.
Though it is an excellent indication of your chicken soon supplying you with some delicious eggs, or if fertile. It could also mean you’ll be getting some new additions to the flock!