I very much want chickens, but something I don't know is how to tell when a chook is enjoying something vs tolerating something vs quietly seething and waiting to take revenge
one of the great things about chickens is that they don’t seethe (quietly or otherwise) or take revenge - they just don’t have much of a concept of either of those things. for the most part, if a chicken doesn’t like something, it will tell you right away by yelling, struggling, or both.
for example, if a chicken doesn’t like being held, it will yell and struggle when you pick it up. it may scratch you or even peck you in the process, depending on how unhappy it is. if you can manage to keep ahold of it until it realizes you aren’t letting go, it will probably quiet down and tolerate being held. if it isn’t too distressed, it might realize “hey, i’m not dying, this isn’t so bad,” and calm down and enjoy some nice neck skritches (or even fall asleep in your arms, my hen does that once she’s done kicking me with her sharp feet).
as for chicken body language, i kind of read it subconsciously so i’m not sure how to explain it very well, but i’ll do my best!
- a happy, relaxed chicken who is enjoying skritches, a dustbath, a sunbath, or just a nice hangout, will often blink their eyes slowly and sort of squinch their eyelids. this video is a good example of this behavior: x
- if a healthy chicken is voluntarily lying on their side, that means they feel extremely calm and secure. example: x
- in this video (x), my pullet dynamite is drowsing while i pet her head. i’m not restraining her; she sat down on my stomach because she wanted to, and she is free to go anytime. the first time i touch her ear, she shakes her head because it tickles. the second time, she starts to get annoyed with me. you can see how she wakes up, moves around, and rejects my attempts to continue to pet her. right after i stopped filming, she stood up and left. also notice how she opens her eyes all the way, indicating that she’s no longer all blissed-out and snoozy
- in this video (x), the pullets are anxious and on-edge because they spotted a potential “predator” (in this case it was probably a crow or an airplane they saw out the window). notice the jerky movements and the outstretched necks. this is the body language of a moderately agitated chicken
- if a flock of chickens are scared of something, you WILL hear about it. the call that they’re making in the video is a typical alarm call and it’s quite loud. chickens may stay quiet if they’re hiding from a hawk, but otherwise, they make a big fuss about a predator or a potential predator
- in this video (x), the pullet doesn’t like being held and she’s telling us about it, but she’s not unduly distressed. she’s not enjoying being restrained in midair and she would prefer to be set down, thank you very much
- hens are quiet when they’re happy, for the most part. if they’re yelling, they’re worked up about something. the thing they’re worked up about may or may not be serious. hens also make a big racket after laying an egg
- chicks peep and trill all the time, sometimes even in their sleep. if they start peeping very shrilly and loudly, it means something’s wrong. they might be cold, or hungry, or one of them might have wandered away from the others and can’t find its way back. if chicks are shrieking, you should check on them asap
- roosters crow, and talk to their hens. they have a special call that they use to tell the hens they’ve found food. i don’t have a ton of experience with roosters, so you’d be better off asking someone else about them
it looks like i just spent an hour or so hyperfocusing on this so i’ll wrap it up since it’s getting kind of long. i hope it helps at least a little bit!
i’m still quite new to chicken keeping, so more experienced chicken keepers feel free to add on!