Chickens make great pets. Their individual personalities and how they interact with you can be comical and endearing. Sometimes though, their behavior can be quite puzzling, especially for those of us not yet accustomed to the life of raising chickens. For example, unexpected behavior like jumping on their owners can leave caregivers confused as to what message their chicken is trying to get across to them.
Why Do My Chickens Jump On Me?
Chickens will jump on you for several reasons, ranging from wanting attention or food to it being a dominant or aggressive behavior. Jumping on you is not uncommon behavior for chickens to engage in. However, chicken owners should be hesitant about allowing their chickens to regularly jump on them for their own health.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at why chickens jump on their owners.
Does Your Chicken Want Attention?
Chickens are way more intelligent than people give them credit for and will actively seek out the attention of their caregivers. At times this can take the form of them simply jumping on you when you crouch down or are sitting.
Most people think chickens are unintelligent creatures with no feelings. However, this is not the case.
Chickens are extremely smart and can become very attached to their owners. They can remember the faces of over a hundred people and chickens. Even when those people and chickens are removed from their presence for a significant amount of time.
With such excellent memory and the ability to recognize individuals quite clearly, a chicken will be more than happy to see and spend some quality time with its owners.
Not to mention that they are social creatures and will likely seek out your time and attention in many different ways.
They may follow you, “talk” to you, or even jump up on you and perch on your shoulder, lap, and sometimes even your head.
They can even remember both positive and negative experiences they’ve had with the people or chickens associated with the faces they recall.
As a result, you may find that they even jump on your friends and family members now and then if they become familiar with them.
Does Your Chicken Want Food?
Studies have shown that chickens have a well-developed perception of the lapse of time.
They anticipate positive experiences that happen regularly. For example, if you consistently come out at certain times of the day and share your meals with your flock of chickens, then it is likely that they are accustomed to a feeding schedule.
In general, chickens will jump for treats, so if you find that your chicken jumps on you close to mealtime or whenever you are eating around them, they are very likely trying to get you to share some yummy food with them.
Is Your Chicken Being Aggressive or Dominant?
A chicken may also jump on you as a sign of aggression or to display its dominance. When your chicken jumps up on you, it could be that your chicken is showing dominance over you rather than trying to be aggressive.
However, you will be easily able to distinguish if their jumping on you is an act of aggression.
- Aggressive chickens– For the most part, aggressive chickens will jump at you rather than on you, but if they get a good foothold for them to thoroughly attack then it can be a problem. So, whether or not your chicken perches peacefully on you will be a clear sign of whether they are engaging in this behavior to be aggressive towards you. There are other signs that you can look for to know whether a chicken is being aggressive towards you. These signs include your chicken pecking at you, having raised neck feathers, lowering its heads, flogging its wings at you, puffing out its chest, and trying to use its spurs on you. If you notice any of these signs accompanied by your chicken jumping on you, then you may have an aggressive chicken.
- Chicken is showing dominance– Showing dominance is not always such an aggressive act as described above. Sometimes a hen higher up in the pecking order will mount another hen as a sign of dominance. It is neither a sexual nor overly aggressive behavior and is quite common to witness now and then. At times this behavior can spill over towards you. A chicken will often see their owners and caretakers as part of the flock. As part of the flock, it is not uncommon for your chicken to jump on you when you crouch down. One reason for this is that chickens use squatting as a submissive gesture. If they find you in this position, it may just be instinct kicking in.
Should You Indulge This Behavior?
As cute and endearing as it is to have your chicken jump on you, it can also be problematic. Having a full-grown chicken or two jumping on your shoulders can be taxing simply due to their weight, but it can also have a negative impact on you and your health if you don’t take precautions.
It can cause you to get cuts and scratches
When a chicken jumps on you, they will likely peck or scratch at you if they find your clothes, hair, or anything else on you that piques their interest.
Even if your chicken is not being aggressive, this jumping behavior can cause chicken owners to experience some discomfort and even pain as a result of their natural tendencies. For this reason, it is better not to allow your chicken jumping on you to become a habit.
It can make you sick
One of the most important things to remember when caring for a flock of chickens is that they carry harmful germs.
These germs can make you seriously ill as a result of handling your chicken and its habitat. One of the most common diseases that humans can get from handling chicken is Salmonella, but many more diseases can arise from humans and chickens living in close proximity.
Another infection that can arise is Histoplasmosis, which is caused by a fungus. This fungus occurs as a result of large amounts of bird droppings in the soil.
This can be problematic when your chickens jump on you as they often step in their own feces and land close to your face (i.e., Shoulders or head).
This is the same for E. coli, campylobacteriosis, and avian flu (or bird flu). Each of which is spread through contact with feces.
As you can see, letting your chicken indulge in this behavior comes with its own set of risks and concerns. Besides not wanting your neck, ear, or face pecked at or scratched at, it is better to limit how often they jump on you so as not to compromise your health.
And don’t forget, any time you handle your chicken, be sure to wash up after to limit health concerns.
Chickens jumping on their owners is not as uncommon behavior as you may think. If your chicken jumps on you, you don’t need to be alarmed. Unless your chicken is acting out of aggression, that is.
They may simply want your attention, your food, or be responding to natural instincts.
Nevertheless, you should try to limit or nip the behavior in the bud to prevent the transfer of unwanted and harmful germs.