Are Chickens Affectionate?

feeding chicken by hand to show affection

When I sat down to write this article, I didn’t start with research. To answer whether chickens are affectionate, I started with a memory.

I was 14. I opened my back door and stepped out onto the porch. About 100 yards away, flapping and clucking.

Then, a black and white ball of feathers flying straight toward me. It was Sally, one of several Dominique chickens strutting around the pasture.

This happened every day. She’d land on my shoulder or arm and affectionately rub her head and beak on my cheek. She’d coo and cluck and settle in for some snuggles.

Are chickens affectionate? Sally was. And many others are. 

That was my memory. Now, let’s look at the facts.

How Do Chickens Show Affection?

Chickens can show affection in a number of ways. All of them are pretty adorable.

To start, they’ll do what Sally did — come to you and rub their heads and beaks on your face or neck. 

How are some other ways chickens show affection:

  • Following you all over the yard. If you can’t go anywhere in your yard without a particular hen trailing you, you might have an affectionate chicken on your hands.
  • Getting in your lap. If every time you sit down a particular chicken plops into your lap, you’re getting some genuine chicken affection. 
  • “Screeching” at you and being under foot. Do some of your hens make a screeching sound every time you come near them and try to stay on or very close to your feet? That’s not a sign of fear — it means they’re happy to see you.
  • Squatting in front of you. When your chickens squat in front of you, they’re asking you to pet them. Often, they make a purring or cooing sound when you bend down to give them some pets.
  • Grooming you. Chickens that don’t feel affection toward you probably want nothing to do with you. But those that like you a lot may try to groom you when you’re holding them. It’s a clear sign of affection.

These are the only ways chickens show affection. But they’re certainly the most common.

Also, it’s important to note:

Chickens can be affectionate, but they can also carry diseases. No matter how much you want to show them affection back, don’t kiss them!

How to Raise Affectionate Chickens

Remember Sally, the chicken I described in the intro? She was an anomaly. Most of my chickens have not shown that kind of affection.

Sometimes, you just get a chicken who is tempered in a way that makes them affectionate. 

But other times, you can have a minor effect on how affectionate your chickens are with you.

Really, it’s all about giving them attention. 

Holding your chickens, talking to them, feeding them from your hand, even playing with them — these are all enriching activities for your chickens. 

They’ll appreciate you more for consistently showing them that kind of care. And they may reciprocate with affection for you.

Most Affectionate Chicken Breeds

The thing to remember is that any breed of chicken can be affectionate. And no single breed will always show affection to humans. 

In many ways, it’s luck of the draw.

But anecdotally, many chicken owners report getting some affection from these chicken breeds:

  • Dominiques
  • Easter eggers
  • Polish chickens
  • Salmon faverolles
  • Buff orpingtons
  • Cochins
  • Barbu d’uccles
  • Silkies
  • Australorps

Want to see it in action?

Here’s a heartwarming video showing a young child bonding with a pet chicken (which just so happens to be the same breed as Sally, my own affectionate chicken — a Dominique):

Chickens Make Affectionate Pets

You don’t have to think of chickens as pets. You also don’t have to think of them as food. The only rule here is to treat your chickens humanely.

However:

Chickens really can be affectionate — especially particular breeds. 

If you’re looking for a pet, you can find one in a hen. Like many other birds, chickens are smart enough to show affection (or something similar to it).

If having a loving lap chicken appeals to you, go for it. It’s as good a reason as any to start your backyard flock.

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