After caring for backyard chickens for several years, you see many strange behaviors. While some are funny, others are relatable. For example, if your coop is like ours, every bird has its own space. So, why do chickens huddle together?
Sometimes things like that, I mark off to them being weird. For example, hens notoriously prefer to all lay eggs in the same nest. As I said, weird. However, in the case of huddling, there are actual reasons for this behavior. Thus, keep reading below to find out why they huddle.
Reasons Why Chickens Huddle
- Cold weather
Just as people huddle close to others when cold, chickens also do the same. It’s instinctual for self preservation.
- Predator attacks
Another time your backyard birds will huddle together is when they’re under attack. Be it a dog that got loose, or an overhead aerial attack, they’ll likely flock to the coop and huddle together.
- Roosting issues
Not having enough roosts will cause your chickens to huddle. Additionally, either having roosts that are too high or uncomfortable will also result in birds huddling together. But it won’t be because they want to; it’s due to having no other choice.
- Chicks or juveniles
If you have chicks, and they’re huddling, it’s possibly due to low temperatures. And they are cold. Juvenile chickens will huddle in the coop if they can’t reach the roost yet. Although, they also could be cold.
- and Illness and parasites
Furthermore, illness and parasites can cause chickens to huddle as well. For instance, coccidiosis is a protozoan parasite that can affect many animals. Though, in chickens, one of the signs is ruffled feathers or huddling. And Pullorum disease in chickens usually affects younger birds, ie chicks. But huddling is also one of the symptoms.
Can Chickens Suffocate
Both adults and chicks can suffocate if and when conditions are right: a lot of birds piling on top of each other. However, in chicks, disease and low temperatures still tend to be the number one reasons for early chick mortality, even if they aren’t piling on top of each other.
Below you’ll find advice for each chick and chicken huddling situation.
Solutions to Huddling Chickens
- Keep your birds warm
If it’s cold out, be sure to have the coop insulated. And use the deep litter method for natural heat in the coop. Also, provide plenty of feed. Plus, give your birds scratch grains to warm them from the inside as well.
- Check on your chickens
Pasture-raised birds will huddle together in fear. Thus, if your biddies are in the coop huddling, then either a predator scared them. Or a flock member was attacked. So, examine your chickens. Plus, do a head count. If all are well and accounted for, then look for their source of fear. Again, it could be a neighbor’s dog, a hawk, or a snake. Those are the predators where I live. Where you live, they could be different.
- Provide roosts
In case your chooks are huddling due to roosting problems, then supply enough perches for them. Additionally, make sure the perches are comfortable. For example, wood is the best material for a roost. However, material isn’t the only concern. Height is one as well. How high and low the roosts are also need to be considered. Check this site out for more details.
- Adjust brooder temperature
When raising chicks, you can easily tell whether they are hot or cold. If they’re hot, they will pant and hold their wings out. And they’ll get as far from the heat source as they can. But if they’re cold, chicks will huddle together under the light for warmth. Thus, you can adjust the height and position of the light, depending on their needs.
For juvenile birds who can’t reach the perch, try lowering it.
- Practice good biosecurity
So, if you have chicks that are sick and huddling due to the parasite coccidia, give them Corid. And as the chicks are exposed to the flock, by the time they reach maturity, they will have developed immunity. Though, if you aren’t practicing good biosecurity, you can bring coccidia from another flock to your own. Therefore, your birds can get sick and vice versa. Also, don’t leave food on the ground for your birds.
There is no known treatment for pullorum besides euthanasia. Thus, purchase chicks and birds from NPIP certified hatcheries to be on the safe side.
Why Chickens Huddle Together
We learned that chickens huddle together for several reasons. And none of them should we ignore. Or at the very least, we should check on our birds, to make sure they’re ok. Because a predator could’ve scared them. Or they could be cold. Although, they could also be dealing with a sickness as well. But, the main point is, huddling is definitely something to watch until you know the cause. Do your chickens huddle? What was the reason? And what did you do to help them?
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