Chicken Sociology


I took this picture at night, while the Dominickers were roosting.  For those who don’t know, chickens really do always come home to roost.  All we have to do is wait for them to go to bed, then close the door on the coop to keep them safe from noctural predators.

When chickens are roosting at night they’re in a sort of near-comatose state. They’re not asleep, but they’re not awake either.  Because they’re so out of it, even the flightiest birds can be handled and moved at night.

I find the way they arrange themselves at night interesting (and they’ll return to the same spot every night).  Notice that while most of them face the wall, two conformists choose not to.  And notice that they all are roosting on the left side of the coop, except for one rebel who has defiantly elected to roost on the right.

My OCD streak dislikes this.  They should all face the same way and they should either evenly distribute themselves on the roosting poles or they should all roost on only one of them.

Of course my preferences are irrelevant and they’re not going to take them into account when settling in for the evening.


18 comments on “Chicken Sociology

  1. Jeff says:

    I’m rooting for the guy on the right!! Non-conformists make life interesting. How dull life would be if everyone watched Ophra. Oops! Almost everyone does.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. shoreacres says:

    Ha! Tell me I’ve got to roost on the right or the left, and I may just head for that low-hanging limb on the oak — predators be danged!


  3. I have often watched the bedtime routine in the hen house, and I think the pecking order plays a part, though not entirely. Some birds will head up to the roost very early, like an hour before the others – I think to get a good spot. But they get shuffled and pecked and if they’re not dominant enough, they end up somewhere different. I’ve never understood if there is a rhyme or reason to which way they face. And I always think that limbo state they get into at night is a terrible survival adaptation – surely it makes them easy pickings when roosting out in a tree or something? I wonder too if their eyesight doesn’t adapt well at night…


    • Bill says:

      In this case the one on the right is probably sick. One of them kept away from the flock during the day over the last few days. She eventually died (cause unknown). Now that I think of it, that’s probably her roosting alone.

      You’re right about how vulnerable they are while roosting. We had guineas for a while but they insisted on roosting in the trees and eventually owls killed them all.


  4. I never imagined, even in my wildest imagination— which is pretty wild— that I would see a philosophical discussion about how chickens roost. But it is interesting note that the majority of your chickens, Bill, are leftists. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    The fact that they maintain the same perch doesn’t surprise me (pecking order) but, to me, facing the wall seems counter-productive in case of a predator attack. Would there not be a better chance of escape if facing toward the door and AWAY from the wall? Or is it kindof like that old joke about surviving a bear attack? “I don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than YOU” or, in Coop Etiquette, whoever’s closest to the door loses?; )


    • Bill says:

      Chickens are basically helpless at night. It wouldn’t matter which way they face. Maybe the thinking is that since they have no chance of escape in the case of attack, at least this way they don’t have to see it coming. 🙂


  6. Joanna says:

    Oh yes! A little chicken psychology, makes for some interesting observations. We often move chickens at night to reduce the problems of integrating them. We can’t hang around long enough for ours to tuck themselves up for the night. If we waited that long then the alpacas won’t go in because it is too dark and it would just mean lots of extra trips. Good job the rattle of a pot of chicken food is enough to have them waddling straight into the chicken house. 😀


    • Bill says:

      In the main coop I could get mine in that way too. They know to come running when they hear “chick, chick.” But this small coop is only large enough for chickens, so I couldn’t call them in that way.


      • Joanna says:

        With our arks we shut the door, put food in the back where they sleep and then open the door. The hens know to get in there and the door is shut after them 🙂


  7. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, ha, I laugh about this discussion of chicken roosting sociology. You want a real yuck, just watch people come into church some time. Just watch how most always sit in the same spot every week. We’ve had very disgruntled folks that have come in and a new person to the church is sitting in their spot. It’s the same at my bible study. Everyone sits in the same spot every week. Just for fun I would sit in a different spot just to see the reaction. It confused the whole group because now no one could sit in their usual spot. It’s interesting to me how we all like routine and conformity. It’s the same when I take my friend to the restaurant. We always sit at the same table and on the same sides of the table. Still think it’s not true? How about switching sides of the bed you sleep on with your spouse and see what happens. We laugh at chickens but in many ways we are the same.

    Have a great chicken sociology day.


    • Bill says:

      Great point Dave. We behave the same way don’t we? I remember seeing funny video of an experiment done on an elevator. Of course we all know that we’re supposed to stand quietly and face the door. In this experiment the door would open and the people already in the elevator would all be facing right or left or toward the rear. The new person entering would be a bit befuddled, but would face whatever direction everyone else was facing. Then, after the door closed, if all the people suddenly turned a different direction, so would the new person.


  8. associatedluke says:

    I never give chickens enough credit. They are an interesting bird with a whole society and reasoning. Thanks for the challenge to pay more attention to how others live and are in the world.


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