13 Important Reasons Why Chickens Get Stressed (Signs+Solutions)

REASONS CHICKENS GET STRESSED

Your chicken may be experiencing stress if there has been a change in its environment, its needs are not being met, is suffering from an illness or is in pain and will make changes both behaviorally and physiologically in order to cope with the stressor.

Recognizing that your chicken is stressed and eliminating the stressor as soon as possible is essential so it doesn’t lead to a decrease in egg production and failing health.

What causes stress in chickens?

1 EXTREME HEAT IN CHICKENS
2 EXTREME COLD IN CHICKENS
3 LACK OF FOOD OR WATER
4 CHANGE IN FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS
5 PREDATORS
6 ISOLATION
7 CRAMPED HOUSING
8 NOT BEING EXPOSED TO SUNSHINE
9 ILLNESS- PARASITES
10 INJURY
11 BEING BULLIED
12 BROODING, RAISING CHICKS
13 MOLTING

Common Signs that Your Chicken is Experiencing Stress

  1. Pale Comb and Wattle
  2. Decrease in Egg Production
  3. Lethargy
  4. Aggression
  5. Withdrawal from the Flock
  6. Labored Breathing
  7. Loose, Watery Stools
  8. Decreased Appetite
  9. Loss of Feathers
  10. Misshaped Eggs

1. Extreme Heat in Chickens

A chicken is not able to sweat, therefore has a difficult time cooling down if gets overheated. This is why it is important to take as many precautions as necessary to prevent your chickens from becoming overheated in the first place.

Signs of Extreme Heat in Chickens

An overheated chicken will open its mouth, pant and pull its wings away from its body in attempt to cool itself down. Hens will commonly stop laying during this time. Other signs are pale, dry combs and wattles as well as mis shaped eggs.

SIGNS OF HEAT STRESS
IN CHICKENS
PULLS ITS WINGS AWAY FROM ITS
BODY IN ATTEMPT TO COOL DOWN
OPEN MOUTH, PANTING
DECREASE IN EGG PRODUCTION
PALE, DRY COMB AND WATTLE
MIS SHAPED EGGS

Solutions to Extreme Heat in Chickens

For a detailed description of what you can do to make your flock more comfortable during extreme heat, read my article:

SOLUTIONS TO
COOLING CHICKENS
DURING EXTREME HEAT
CHANGE WATER OUT FREQUENTLY
PROVIDE GOOD VENTILATION
SERVE COOL TREATS
DON’T FRED SCRATCH OR
CORN DURING HOT SPELLS
LET THEM FREE RANGE
PROVIDE COOL DUST
BATHING SPOTS
ADD A FAN TO THE COOP
PROVIDE ADDITIONAL SHADE
PROVIDE SHALLOW PANS OF
WATER FOR THEM TO WALK IN
USE A MISTER

2. Extreme Cold in Chickens

Chickens can tolerate below freezing weather much better than they can extreme heat. Their feathers are made to hold in warm pockets of air generated by their own body heat. Chicken feathers, with the exception of Silkies, are designed to repel water. They also use each other to keep each other warm.

Signs of Extreme Cold in Chickens

The most common sign of extreme cold in a chicken would be black marks on their comb and wattle. This is frost bite and it is due to the tissues freezing, providing a lack of circulation to this area. You may even see several chickens with their feathers fluffed up, huddled together or shivering. They may raise one leg up into their chest or tuck their head under a wing to keep warm.

SIGNS OF EXTREME COLD
IN A CHICKEN
BLACK MARKS ON COMB OR WATTLE
FEATHERS FLUFFED UP
HUDDLED WITH OTHER CHICKENS
SHIVERING
LIFTING ONE LEG INTO BELLY
TUCKING HEAD UNDER ONE WING

Solutions to Extreme Cold in Chickens

During times of extreme cold, at night when your chickens are roosting, apply petroleum jelly or Vaseline to their combs and wattles.

Make sure they have protection from the elements, such as wind, rain and snow.

Make sure they are dry at night before roosting.

SOLUTIONS TO EXTREME
COLD IN CHICKENS
APPLY VASELINE TO
COMBS AND WATTLES
PROVIDE SHELTER FROM
WIND, RAIN, SNOW
MAKE SURE THEY ARE DRY
BEFORE EVENING ROOSTING

For additional information on how you can keep your chickens happy during really cold weather, read my article:

3. Lack of Food or Water

Signs of Stress Due to Lack of Food and Water

Chickens can get more aggressive when there is not enough food and water for the whole flock. They will fight and bully other flock mates for what little food there is.

It can also cause hens to decrease or stop laying eggs completely. Hungry and dehydrated chickens frequently have a pale comb and wattle.

Those at the bottom of the pecking order can become lethargic and weak due to a lack of nutrients. If this goes on long enough, it can also result in death.

SIGNS OF LACK OF
FOOD AND WATER
IN CHICKENS
AGGRESSIVENESS/BULLYING
DECREASING OR STOPPING
OF EGG PRODUCTION
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
WEAKNESS/LETHARGY
DEATH

Solutions to Lack of Food and Water in Chickens

If you are having trouble providing enough food and water for your chickens, let them free range. There are so many bugs and natural greens that they can get just by free ranging! Make it a point to always have fresh water available to your flock.

To double the nutrients and the amount of your chicken feed, consider making chicken fodder out of it or fermenting it. It is so easy to do, will save you so much money and it is nutritionally better for your chickens too. For more information on how to do this, read my articles:

Don’t throw away your table scraps. Give them to your chickens. A chickens diet shouldn’t consist of more than 10% in “treats,” but if you cannot provide food in any other way, this is better than nothing.

Ask local restaurants, grocery stores and your neighbors to save their left over cuttings from fruits, veggies, etc. for you.

Start your own “Mealworm Farm.” It costs less than $5 to start and you will have never ending treats that are high in protein for your chickens.

If you are unable to provide sufficient nutrition for your chickens, it is best to find a home that can provide the proper nutrition for them.

SOLUTIONS TO LACK OF
FOOD AND WATER
FOR CHICKENS
LET CHICKENS FREE RANGE
MAKE CHICKEN FODDER
FERMENT CHICKEN FEED
FEED TABLE SCRAPS
ASK RESTAURANTS, NEIGHBORS,
STORES, FOR LEFT OVERS
START A “MEALWORM FARM”
REHOME CHICKENS

4. Change in Familiar Surroundings

Chickens can become stressed if there is a change in their familiar surroundings. This includes transporting them to another location, combining two flocks, rearranging their coop and changing where they go to roost at night.

Signs of Stress Due to Change in Familiar Surroundings

A chicken may show signs of stress when their surroundings are changed in the following ways:

SIGNS OF STRESS IN
CHICKENS DUE TO
UNFAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS
HENS STOP LAYING EGGS
DECREASED APPETITE
DIARREAH
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
NOT WANT TO GO INTO
NEW COOP AT NIGHT

Solutions to Stress in Chickens Due to Change in Surroundings

SOLUTIONS TO
DECREASE STRESS
IN CHICKENS DUE TO
UNFAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS
ADD ELECTROLYTES
TO WATER
TRY TO MINIMIZE
AMOUNT OF CHANGES
ENCOURAGE CHICKENS
INTO COOP WITH TREATS
GRADUALLY INTEGRATE
NEW FLOCK INTO
EXISTING FLOCK

5. Predators

Signs of Stress Due to Predators

Of course the biggest sign a predator has been around is either a loss of chicken(s), halo of feathers in the coop or yard or injured chickens.

If a predator has visited the coop, your chickens may suddenly not want to go back in there. Hens frequently will stop laying. They may even stop eating and hover as a group away from where the predator was or is.

Another sign is kids chasing or mis handling the chickens. This is very stressful for them and shouldn’t be allowed. Young kids that are not familiar with chickens should be supervised.

SIGNS OF A
CHICKEN PREDATOR
LOSS OF CHICKENS
HALO OF FEATHERS
CHICKENS AFRAID TO
GO BACK IN COOP
STOP LAYING EGGS
STOPS EATING
FLOCK HUDDLES TOGETHER
AWAY FROM WHERE
PREDATOR WAS/IS
HOLES IN COOP
PREDATOR DROPPINGS

Solutions to Stress Due to Predators

It’s time to predator proof your chicken coop to make sure that it is safe for your flock. Here are some good tips to ensure their safety:

SOLUTIONS TO
DETER
CHICKEN PREDATORS
USE 1/4″ HARDWARE CLOTH
TO KEEP PREDATORS OUT
GET A ROOSTER
GET A GUARD DOG
LOCK THEM IN THE
COOP AT NIGHT
ELECTRIC FENCE
HAWK NETTING ON
CHICKEN RUN
REMOVE UNEATEN FOOD
AT END OF EACH DAY
SECURE FEED IN METAL
CONTAINER
LOCATE COMPOST PILE
AWAY FROM COOP
PICK FRUIT FROM
TREES AS IT RIPENS
DON’T LEAVE
PET FOOD OUT
TRAIN CHILDREN HOW TO
HANDLE AND TREAT CHICKENS

6. Isolation

Isolation can cause stress in a chicken. Chickens are very social creatures by nature. They like to hang out in flocks, eating, drinking, dust bathing, sunbathing and preening.

This is why it is important to always have more than one chicken. It is highly suggested to get at least 3, just in case one dies that the other is not left alone.

Sometimes we need to isolate a broody chicken or bully chicken by putting them in “chicken jail.”

For a broody hen, place the hen in a cage, but keep the cage in the chicken run so she is able to still see and carry out regular chicken behavior with the rest of the flock.

For a bully chicken, the idea is to “knock them down a few notches” so it is not as aggressive. In this situation, the chicken does need to be totally isolated from the other chickens.

Signs of Stress Due to Isolation

SIGNS OF
STRESS DUE TO
CHICKEN ISOLATION
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
LACK OF REGULAR
“CHICKEN BEHAVIOR”
WITHDRAWN
STOPS LAYING EGGS OR
DECREASED EGG PRODUCTION

Solutions to Stress Due to Isolation

SOLUTIONS TO
STRESS DUE TO
CHICKEN ISOLATION
ALWAYS HAVE MORE
THAN ONE CHICKEN
ISOLATE BROODY HEN
IN CRATE INSIDE
CHICKEN RUN
BREAK BROODINESS

7. Brooding, Raising Baby Chicks

A hen that is broody, trying to hatch a clutch of eggs, is under a lot of stress. It takes a lot of hard work to incubate and protect her developing chicks for 3 weeks.

A hen that is brooding eggs will eat, drink, poop and interact with the rest of the flock very little. This is very stressful on her body. This is why it is important, if the plan is not to hatch a clutch of chicks or if the eggs are infertile, that you break her from her broodiness.

Raising chicks is also very stressful for a mother hen. She will do everything possible to protect her baby chicks. She is responsible for their safety and making sure they are fed and well hydrated.

Signs of Stress Due to Brooding or Raising Baby Chicks

SIGNS OF STRESS
DUE TO BROODING
OR RAISING
BABY CHICKS
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
BROODINESS
DOESN’T LEAVE CLUTCH
OF EGGS OFTEN
DECREASED EATING
DECREASED DRINKING
INCREASED AGGRESSIVENESS
PLUCKING OF FEATHERS
ON BREAST TO KEEP
EGGS AND CHICKS WARM
COMB FLOPPED OVER
VERY LARGE, INFREQUENT
POOPS

Solutions to Stress Due to Brooding and Raising Chicks

SOLUTIONS TO DECREASE
STRESS DUE TO BROODING
AND RAISING CHICKS
REMOVE BROODY HEN
FROM EGGS IF INFERTILE
REMOVE BROODY HEN
FROM EGGS IF YOU
DON’T WANT CHICKS
SET HEN UP IN A PRIVATE
AREA SHE CAN HATCH CHICKS
PROVIDE EXTRA FOOD AND
WATER AREA FOR BABY CHICKS

8. Cramped Housing

When chickens are not given enough room to move around, this limits their ability to carry out innate chicken behavior, including pecking and scratching the ground for food, dust bathing and preening in groups. Due to cramped conditions, chickens are often living in unsanitary conditions.

Signs of Stress Due to Cramped Housing

SIGNS OF STRESS
DUE TO CRAMPED
CHICKEN HOUSING
PALE COMB AND
WATTLE
PRONE TO VARIOUS
CHICKEN ILLNESSES
PRONE TO PARASITES
DIARRHEA
AGGRESSIVENESS
LOSS OF FEATHERS
DUE TO PECKING

Solutions to Decrease Stress Due to Cramped Housing

SOLUTION TO
DECREASE STRESS
DUE TO CRAMPED
CHICKEN HOUSEING
INCREASE COOP SIZE
LET FREE RANGE
MAINTAIN COOP
CLEANING
PROVIDE MORE DUST
BATHING SPOTS
PROVIDE ADDITIONAL
ROOSTING BARS
PROVIDE 1 ROOSTING
BOX PER 4 HENS

“All poultry requires a minimum amount of square feet in coops, runs and cages that increases with age to maintain health and to prevent social problems. They also require a certain amount of space at feeders and waterers.”

Colorado State University: Brooding and Space Requirements for Poultry

9. Lack of Sunshine

Signs of Stress Due to Lack of Sunshine

Chickens that are cooped up 24/7 and not exposed to sunshine experience a lot more stress. Chickens that are in battery cages for the sole purpose of producing eggs do not receive any vitamin D, are not able to eat fresh bugs and greens.

They will therefore produce eggs that are of lower quality, lower nutritional value and lay less often. Chickens that are exposed to sunshine are much happier because they are able to carry out natural chicken behavior.

SIGNS OF STRESS
DUE TO LACK OF
SUNSHINE
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
LAYS EGGS OF DECREASED
NUTRITIONAL VALUE
LAYS LESS FREQUENTLY
MORE AGGRESSIVE
FEATHER PLUCKING
UNHAPPY DISPOSITION

Solutions to Decrease Stress Due to Lack of Sunshine

SOLUTIONS TO DECREASE
STRESS DUE TO
LACK OF SUNSHINE
ALLOW CHICKENS
TO FREE RANGE
HAVE PART OF THE COOP
OPEN TO SUNSHINE
USE FULL SPECTRUM LIGHT
BULBS FOR LIGHTING

10. Illness-Parasites

It is important to catch chicken illnesses and parasites early on so it doesn’t result in additional health issues. Chickens that are ill or have parasites are experiencing increased stress, not at their best and are more vulnerable to being bullied and attacked by other flock mates. (Survival of the fittest.)

Keeping the chicken coop clean and free of rodents is the number one way to keep the chances of chicken illnesses and parasites down.

Signs of Stress Due to Illness or Parasites

SIGNS OF INCREASED
STRESS DUE TO
CHICKEN ILLNESSES
OR PARASITES
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
WITHDRAWAL FROM THE
REST OF THE FLOCK
DECREASED APPETITE
DIARRHEA
MAY STOP LAYING EGGS
MISSHAPEN EGGS

Solutions to Decrease Stress Due to Illness or Parasites

SOLUTIONS TO DECREASE
STRESS DUE TO
CHICKEN ILLNESSES
OR PARSITES
KEEP CHICKEN COOP CLEAN
DON’T OVERCROWD
FEED PROPER DIET
RODENT PROOF
CHICKEN COOP
DON’T LEAVE FEED OUT
AT NIGHT- THIS WILL
ATTRACT RODENTS
USE HERBS IN THE
NESTING BOXES THAT
WILL DETER INSECTS,
PARASITES AND RODENTS
PLANT SHRUBS BESIDE
CHICKEN COOP THAT
DETER INSECTS, PARASITES
AND RODENTS
REDUCE CLUTTER BY
CHICKEN COOP
LOCATE COMPOST PILE
AWAY FROM COOP

11. Injury

Injured chickens need to be identified and isolated early so they do not become bullied and injured more by other flock members.

Chickens sense each others weakness and will bully and peck an injured chicken. This is innate chicken behavior to get rid of the weakest link. An injured chicken is thought of as a threat to the flock because predators can smell their blood.

Signs of Stress Due to Injury

SIGNS OF STRESS
DUE TO INJURY
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
WITHDRAWAL FROM
REST OF THE FLOCK
LACK OF APPETITE
BULLIED BY OTHER
FLOCK MEMBERS
MISSING FEATHERS
DOESN’T MOVE
NORMAL

Solutions to Decrease Stress Due to Injury

SOLUTIONS TO DECREASE
STRESS DUE TO
CHICKEN INJURIES
DAILY OBSERVATION OF
FLOCK TO CHECK FOR
INJURIES
TREAT INJURED CHICKEN
REMOVE INJURED CHICKEN
AND ISOLATE INSIDE RUN
KEEP CHICKEN FIRST AID
SUPPLIES ON HAND
KNOW WHERE CLOSEST
CHICKEN VET IS

12. Being Bullied

Bullying is quite common within flocks, BUT once the flock figures out the “pecking order” things should settle down. It should be addressed if it gets out of hand, especially if there is any bloodshed. Bullying is common when combining new flocks, a chicken dies or there has been a change in the environment (like due to a move).

Signs of Stress Due to Being Bullied

SIGNS OF STRESS
DUE TO BEING
BULLIED
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
LOSS OF FEATHERS
BLEEDING
INJURY
WITHDRAWAL FROM
REST OF FLOCK
DECREASE IN EGG LAYING
DEATH IF NOT ADDRESSED

Solutions to Decrease Stress Due to Being Bullied

SOLUTIONS TO DECREASE
STRESS DUE TO
BEING BULLIED
KEEP AN EYE ON AGGRESSION
WITHIN THE FLOCK
REMOVE BULLY HEN
AND ISOLATE IN
“CHICKEN JAIL”
INTEGRATE EQUAL SIZE
FLOCKS ONLY
GRADUALLY INTRODUCE
NEW FLOCK MEMBERS

13. Molting

Molting first occurs around 18 months of age and then 1-2 times a year in chickens and involves the losing and replacement of its feathers. Most chickens will molt at the end of summer. It is how they prepare for the cold winter months. New feathers are more equipped to trap warm air that is generated from their body.

Molting is very stressful and can be painful for a chicken. They require a lot of energy to grow in a new, full, healthy set of feathers.

Signs of Stress Due to Molting

SIGNS OF STRESS
DUE TO
MOLTING
PALE COMB AND WATTLE
LOSS OF FEATHERS
FEATHERS ALL OVER
THE COOP
DECREASE IN APPETITE
STOPS LAYING EGGS
STOPS EATING CALCIUM
SUPPLEMENTS

Solutions to Decrease Stress Due to Molting

SOLUTIONS TO DECREASE
STRESS DUE TO
MOLTING
PROVIDE INCREASED
PROTEIN TREATS- FEATHERS
ARE 85% PROTEIN
DON’T ADD ANY ADDITIONAL
STRESSORS TO THEM
DON’T PICK THEM UP-
IT HURTS!
DON’T PUT CLOTHES
ON THEM-IT HURTS!
SEPARATE ROOSTERS
FROM HENS-NO MATING

Conclusion: 13 Important Reasons Why Chickens Get Stressed (Signs+Solutions)

There are so many reasons why chickens get stressed:

  • Environmental changes
  • Innate needs of chickens are not being met
  • Suffering from injury
  • Suffering from illness or parasites
  • Predators

These can affect them both behaviorally and physiologically.

Be observant of your flock so you are able to identify the stressors and act quickly upon it. This way it is less likely to affect their health and well-being.