Why Do Chickens Sunbathe?

chicken lying down

Most chicken owners encounter this at some point:

You walk out into the yard and see a few of your hens lying on their sides in the sun. Sometimes, their wings are stretched out and their feathers puffed up

You fear the worst. You think they’re sick or hurt.

But they’re not. They’re just sunbathing.

Chickens sunbathe all the time. And it’s nothing to worry about. 

Why do chickens sunbathe? Read on to find out:

Sunbathing Is Good for Chickens

Chickens operate on instinct. Somewhere deep in their poultry brains, they know they need sunlight.

So, they go out in the sun. 

See, chickens are just like people — they need vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is essential to all sorts of processes in chickens’ bodies — including the production of healthy eggs.

And chickens require the sun to help their bodies produce vitamin D. 

The other reason why chickens sunbathe? It feels good!

Just like humans, chickens love to lie down on a warm spot and let the sun wash over them.

They won’t get a tan like we will, but they’ll still enjoy themselves.

Vitamin D and Your Flock

Let’s take a closer look at the issue of vitamin D in chickens. 

Chickens sunbathe primarily to increase their vitamin D levels (although they don’t know that’s why they’re doing that).

So, what if your chickens are sunbathing all the time? It might be a sign that they’re low on vitamin D. 

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that many chicken feeds contain vitamin D at or near the recommended levels.

But it IS possible for chickens to have vitamin D deficiencies even if their feed contains vitamin D. That can happen for two reasons:

  • They’re struggling to get enough sunlight during the day. This can happen if you live in a low-light place or keep your chickens in the shade.
  • The feed does not contain enough vitamin D.

Sunbathing is completely normal for chickens. But it should just last for a few minutes. Then, your chickens should move on to another activity.

If your chickens are sunbathing for extended periods of time or doing it super frequently, there may be an underlying problem. If that’s the case, talk to your vet. 

Can Chickens Get Too Hot in the Sun?

If you live in a really hot place, you might worry when you see your chickens sunbathing. Will they get too hot?

It’s possible but unlikely. Yes, chickens can overheat. But they’re REALLY good at regulating their own temperatures. 

As a general rule, if they’re sunbathing, they’re enjoying the warmth — not overheating. 

But you could run into a problem if you haven’t provided a way for your chickens to seek shelter from the sun.

For example, if you have no shade whatsoever in the run you’ve provided for your flock, they could overheat on a particularly hot day.

But that’s going to happen in general — not as a result of sunbathing.

It’s OK to Let Your Chickens Sunbathe

If you got a little worried when you saw your chickens sprawled out in the sun, you’re not alone. And you probably have nothing to worry about.

Chickens sunbathe because it gives them healthy vitamin D. And they love how it feels.

So, let your chickens sunbathe if they want to. They’ll be a lot happier (and healthier) as a result.

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