Chicken Behavior The Ignorant Gal's Guide To Things No Sane Person Would Tell You About Chickens

I’ve learned all sorts of ridiculous things that no one warned me about because these things are so commonplace, experienced chicken keepers don’t...
By madwomn · Dec 10, 2012 · Updated Jan 4, 2013 · ·
  1. madwomn
    Noodle, contemplating scratching, Pepper, armpit deep in a hole, and Salt, who has just found something that needs excavation.​

    The Ignorant Gal’s Guide to Things No Sane Person Would Tell You about Chickens
    By Mad Woman of the West
    Mother’s Day. I did everything wrong, usually over and over. I’ve not had my little flock of seven bantams long enough to know anything important. On the other hand, I’ve learned all sorts of ridiculous things that no one warned me about because these things are so commonplace, experienced chicken keepers don’t even consider them. I have become a font of wisdom on reasonless panic, arm waving, and head shaking.First, you should know that I bought my pet chickens over the course of this year, starting May 20th

    If you’re thinking about purchasing or adopting chickens, of course you should spend time on, but you should also read everything you can get your hands on, talk to experienced people, and hang out with someone who has chickens. Let’s face it, though, there are some things you won’t learn any other way than either personal experience or talking to someone like me, who has no shame.

    Thus, for your reading pleasure, here are 10 ridiculous things I’ve learned that will hopefully make your transition into chicken keeping a less harrowing proposition.

    1. My rooster is not epileptic. He just likes the girls and he’s trying to show it. When I saw my first rooster, Chicken Florentine, doing the rooster dance (renamed the “man dance” at my house), I thought he’d developed an exotic kind of epilepsy. What else would make him tremble, squat down, stand up, shake his wings, weave his head side to side, and not stop until Pepper, my mottled D’Uccle lead hen, pecked him on top of the head? Florie, a ½-Cochin, ½-Silkie accidental roo, had the fluffiest pantaloons you’ve ever seen, and he would shake those things like it was going to save his life. The inventors of Youtube probably didn’t foresee that they’d save me thousands of dollars in vet bills, but this is definitely an instance in which typing “rooster dance” into a search bar saved my bank account. It probably saved my vet’s life, too, because he would have laughed himself to death when I re-enacted the problem.
    2. Just because I can’t find the eggs doesn’t mean that my hens aren’t laying. All of my chickens are cast-offs from someone else’s flock in our area. They are all cross-beaked, funny-patterned, long-legged extras, and they all but one grew up in cages. Free ranging in my yard was brand new to all but one of them (my new rooster, Limp Noodle, is still highly suspicious of grass), but they took to it nonetheless. They especially like the euonymous bushes, which grow snug to the ground. I can’t get my own hand under those bushes, but they are now constantly chicken infested. Beautiful new nest boxes in the coop? Check! Solid, comfy, protected, dark nest boxes on the patio? Check! Nests under every godforsaken bush in the yard? Check! Now that molting is over for the fall, I’m armpit deep in a bush with my knees in the mud every afternoon. If you are not yet a religious or at least deeply philosophical person, chickens will almost immediately cause you to contemplate your place in the universe.
    3. Cecal poop will not come off door mats or white shirts, no matter how hard you scrub. Assuming you don’t have chickens yet, let me tell you about cecal poop (pronounced “bleeeeeeeeeeeep!-now-I-have-to-buy-another-white-shirt!”). It’s a combination of rust stain, dinosaur gall bladders, chewing gum, and sulphur that chickens cook up when your back is turned. Even your dogs won’t eat it, and you will never, ever get it off your door mat. The winter sun shines in my sliding glass door, right across the outdoor mat that was intended for boot wiping, but actually keeps my flock’s tootsies warm as they bask in the rays. We tried – really, really tried – to get them to choose another place to warm themselves, but in the end it was easier to use a different door to get into the house from the yard. Please do not tell my mother this. She’s suspicious enough of the whole chicken thing as it is.
    4. Hawks know where I live, even if I live in the city. On Belgian rooster Noodle’s second day in the yard, he had followed the girls over to the roots of the umbrella catalpa. He didn’t understand the whole scratching thing yet, but he was watching with interest, looking at what the girls found and raising an eyebrow at the idea that they ate it instead of walking over to the coop where the recognizable food was. I was standing 10 feet away, sanding the edge of the new nest boxes, talking to my peeps. Suddenly, Salt, the only one of my girls with hawk experience, freaked out, shot straight up into the air, and hit the ground circling like a tornado. I jumped about as high as she did just as a hawk hit the ground right in the middle of where my flock had been standing. Luckily, Salt’s panic had made the rest of the chickens scatter and run under the table where I was standing. By the time I had my hand over my pounding heart, the hawk was headed off into the air again without a chicken in its talons. Now that the leaves are off all of the trees, it’s easier to see into my yard, but it’s also easier for Salt to see the hawks. When I first got her, I thought she was a BIG mistake, because she is bat crap crazy, but it turns out she’s an asset in disguise.
    5. 75% of the pullet chicks I buy will turn out to be roosters. I’m beginning to think I’m cursed. I have even purchased two “girls” from sexed batches who turned out to be roos. The first two I had to give away. They were too noisy, but my gorgeous Noodle only crows first thing in the morning while still inside his coop, or if I’m cleaning the coop and he wants in. His crow is hoarse, quiet, and not complete (more like “cock-a-cough-a-choke-a-doo!”), which makes my neighbors much happier. Florie’s crow was LOUD and any time he was elevated off the ground in the least, he’d let fly. He crowed all day and all night. My second accidental roo, a Modern Game mix named Custard, was re-homed before he started crowing because he talked loudly to himself 24 hours a day. I was terrified that he’d start to crow and it would be insanely loud and he’d do it all day and night. I live in a city that shall not be named where chickens are forbidden in back yards. All I need is a neighbor reporting me.
    6. My flower beds need a lot more holes than I had previously thought. I knew chickens would dig, but I misunderstood exactly how much. My flock is out in the yard from dawn to dusk every day and they spend approximately 239% of that time digging. I just raked all the bark back into my flower beds again today. It’s great exercise, and my plants look like a million bucks, even in the midst of winter, but I’m beginning to be a bit disheartened by my girls’ ability to fixate on a spot and not let it go. I filled in a hole today that was ten inches deep and about twelve inches across. Two weeks ago, I caught two hens in adjacent holes attempting to conduct medieval torture on each other. They were each neck deep in an excavation, pitching dirt in on top of the other. If I hadn’t intervened, they would have either died of exhaustion or buried each other alive.
    7. Even the brain damaged ones can be lovely. One of my hens, a quail D’Anvers named Reeses, was extremely ill when she was small. We dropper-fed her for two weeks while she recovered. Though the diarrhea eventually stopped and she perked up and started to act mostly like a chicken, she walks funny and doesn’t seem to have proper depth perception. She runs crooked and with strange leg movement, holds her head tilted, sneezes every time she drinks because she’s constantly near-drowning herself, and takes two or three tries to get up onto a perch. Even her cluck is a gooselike “SKONK.” On the other hand, though she’s at the bottom of the pecking order, she’s not really bright enough to notice. She’s happy all the time, and as long as you conform to the routines she’s learned, you’d never know that she’s not quite right. Her feathers are the most gorgeous deep, shiny peanut butter and chocolate colors, and she chuckles to herself when you give her a scribble on the neck.
    8. That chick has not just dropped dead when hit by the first rays of the sun. When Reeses was finally well, we put her out into the yard in a jerry-rigged tractor so she could get some sun and socialize with the other chickens. I set her in the sunshine, she took two steps, and fell over on her side with one leg and one wing stiff and her neck skewed over. My college-age daughter, who had shared the two weeks of all-night dropper feedings, burst into tears. Comfort the daughter. Open the tractor. Pick up the chicken, who looks at me as if I’ve just lost my mind. Put the chicken back in the tractor and watch it fall over on its side. Go get the computer. Turns out this is normal and not just Reeses being brain damaged, or worse, incipiently dead. Yet again, Backyard Chickens saves my sanity.
    9. My dogs are not as tough as they seem. I was worried about free-ranging my chickens because I have a terrier and a greyhound who are experienced at killing doves and robins. I know, I know. I can hear you rolling your eyes and thinking that I’m an idiot. Well, neener-neener-neener, because I purchased a mottled black and white D’Uccle lead hen named Pepper who perceives herself as a large, angry tattooed gang member. The first time I let my flock out into the yard, my dogs were standing right with me. Pepper hopped into the grass, the terrier gingerly leaned forward to sniff her, and Pepper leapt to the attack. She took a chunk out of the dog’s left eyebrow and both dogs headed for the house screaming. Pepper looked calmly back into the coop at the other chickens as if to say, “Well? Are you coming?” Everybody else trooped out after her and I haven’t had a single bit of trouble with my dogs since. In fact, it took a loooooooong time to get those dogs back out into the yard while Pepper was out there. That was six months ago and they still have a healthy respect for her.
    10. Warm oatmeal with a little cat food and some fruit scraps causes violence in chickens. I’ve read a lot about what to feed chickens, and my flock has what you might call a varied diet. They always have regular chicken food available, but they also have whatever they can scratch – or dig – up in the yard, a little bit of cracked corn scratch, black oil sunflower seeds, homemade chicken treats made with the Chicken Chick’s recipe, flax seeds, oatmeal, greens of all sorts, kitchen scraps, canned pears, a teeny bit of cat food, and all sorts of other random things that cross my household’s food needs. Their favorite thing by far, however, is when I take ½ a canned pear, a handful of oatmeal, a handful of chicken feed, a little bit of their treats, a little hard cat food, a little scratch, some cut up spinach, and a handful of sprouted wheat, and mix it with hot water. They will drive off the dogs to get to that bowl. If I’ve had to carry the bowl outside to put in the chicken feed because I forgot to take it inside with me, my mille fleur D’Uccle sisters Crème and Caramel have developed a special growling sound they use only in this situation that lets me know that I’m taking too bleeping long to put the bowl on the ground.
    Now that I read back across this list, I can see that I’ve opened myself up for some mocking. That’s OK. I have become a deeply philosophical person due to my chickens and whatever you say, I probably deserve in the cosmic sense, if not the actual. You may have noticed that all of my chickens are named after a type of food. I have come to believe, after much Chicken Zen contemplation while scrubbing the door mat, that the chicken behavior at my house may be some sort of revenge. I accept that, too.

    If you, too, are willing to start with no sense of shame, a deep willingness to embrace the ridiculous, and a high tolerance for standing in place shaking your head in wonderment, by all means, get chickens. And a rake.


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Recent User Reviews

  1. fldiver97
    "Funny.... and soooo true!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jan 18, 2019
    Love this article! Describes life as a backyard ‘chicken tender’ to a ‘T’
  2. Shadrach
    "Not as mad as her name suggests"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 17, 2018
    This should be in the learning center.
    I’ve read quite a few articles here now and although some are informative and well written, overall most seem a bit dry and humorless to me.
    Maybe it’s a cultural thing but being able to write and make people laugh is a gift and this article did make me laugh.
    So much of what is written about mirrors many of the mini trauma’s I went through as I discovered the chickens weren’t the cuddly little sweeties that one might come to believe reading posts on BYC.
    I read this article from time to time, usually after I’ve read some post or other that just makes me want to bang my head on the wall in disbelief and frustration.
    One of the things I like about chickens is they make me laugh at their antics and laugh at myself for thinking I know better than they do.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen Madwomn on the forums which is a great pity given her humour and common sense approach.
    If you read this Madwomn, write another article.
    Mimi’s 13 and micstrachan like this.
  3. RachelGM
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Sep 9, 2018
    A lovely article. Thank you for showing me that someone else is as mad as I am!


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  1. imneva
    hilarious!!! thank you!!
  2. chickenmeadow
    Thanks again for the great article & loads of laughs. I've shared what you wrote with other people I know & they just loved it; they don't even do chickens & still laughed. I always appreciate it when someone is able to help others see the fun side of things & maybe not take it or ourselves so serious all of the time. Best wishes.
  3. FlyWheel
    :rolleyes: You seriously named your rooster "Limp Noodle"? Forgetting how you explained that to your kids, you're going to give (if you haven't already) the poor thing a complex, if not incurable chronic ED.
      OF65 likes this.
    1. madwomn
      I DID! For good reason, though... He was raised by a family that showed chickens. They sold him to me because no matter what they did, he would NOT calm down in an exhibition cage and panicked every time someone walked past. When you pick him up, however, he goes completely limp. I had trouble getting him out of the cage the first time and thought I'd killed him when I finally had a hold on him, but that's just the way he's wired. We joke that he's part fainting goat. My kids are college age, and they think his name is hilarious!
      Mimi’s 13 likes this.
  4. OF65
    Excellent! I laughed all the way through it! I have had chickens for over 50 years and am still learning. Love your style of writing and sharing!!
      PaulineNM likes this.
  5. KentuckyMom
    Yesterday I sat outside, on the first sunny day in at least 2 weeks and held one of my chickens. Aaahhh...chicken therapy, it does the heart good! And nobody understands, laughs, and shakes their head like a fellow Backyard Chickens member ! Nicely done!
      Mimi’s 13 and BarredRockMom like this.
  6. Mrskriss
    Omg I loved this, hilarious! Great read!
  7. Blooie
    An absolute jewel - priceless!!
  8. BabyGirl2
    LOVE your story. The first time my rooster Tubby (may he rest in peace) took a dirt bath I thought something terrible had happened to him. I have to guard the cats while they are eating or the chickens will run them off and take their food. Keep sharing, it was great.
  9. Mewzikl
    Love this! I'm sitting here laughing out loud (at work) saying "Yep! Yep!" Yep!" LOL
  10. tash
    The first time my daughter saw the chicks dust bathing in the brooder she ran to me in a panic thinking they were all sick.
  11. Gibbie
    Oh my goodness! Your article is absolutely hilarious! I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Me laughing so hard that tears ran down my cheeks, got me some long strange looks from my husband. Thank you for posting.
      PaulineNM and Pater est Pullis like this.
  12. lgyure85
    This literally had me cackling with laughter. My dogs are also terrified of the chickens, after a few "that's MY food" pecks. My dogs are also greyhounds! They have learned that the chickens really love their food, but don't care for it after it's been digested, so that's when the dogs get it
  13. ncgreyhounds
    This is the first article I read when I found this website/forum- loved it! Love that you have a greyhound, too, albeit a bit of a wimp greyhound. :D Thanks for convincing me to register!
      lgyure85 likes this.
  14. howertop
    So familiar!!!! Youre a very talented writer!!!!
  15. ChickenWhisperer$
    When I started I did the same thing:D
  16. Hoppersway
    This was a great read! Reminds me that I am not the only one!
      Pater est Pullis and Abriana like this.
  17. Mimi’s 13
    This entire article is hilariously true! I love it!
      hippiestink and Abriana like this.
  18. BarredRockMom
    Oh my gosh!! Besides being well written & entertaining this is completely true! That bit about the chicken flopping over in the sunshine & going stiff as a board took me straight back to my first viewing of a chicken sun baking. Of course, I didn't know it was called that, had never heard of it & hadn't the slightest idea that it was how they absorbed Vitamin D. In all of my reading, I'd never seen it mentioned or even hinted at.

    I just thought that my baby had had some kind of epileptic seizure & died right smack dab in front of me. How best to help my darling girl when I am paralyzed with fear, in shock, on the verge of fainting from not being able to breathe, yet ready to throw up?

    Then, just as if to say "Psych! Got ya Mom!!", she popped up like some demented Jack in the box wearing a chicken suit & left me standing there, heart pounding, wondering what in THE hail had just happened?!

    They don't call it "Adventures in Chicken Keeping" for nothing, as it turns out. The only tv that I can stand to have on all of the time, unmuted and unfiltered is Chicken TV.
  19. Then I Will
    Humorous article! Chickens will bring out the best and STRANGEST in us all! Am I the only one who goes out and digs through piles of leaves with my chickens? Or overturns boulders and logs to assist them in finding nutritious protein packed creepy crawlies??
    1. BarredRockMom
      Nope, we do it too! There are always 1 or 2 who will follow us around and come when we call, if we say the magic words..."look, look", "cricket", "bug"! Glad to know that someone else does it, too!
    2. madwomn
      Oh, yeah. Reesie "helps" me dig whenever I'm outside! The hard part is having to dig fast enough that she's not in the hole before I finish!
  20. Pater est Pullis
    Awesome Article! :thumbsup
  21. fur-mum
    hahah! loved it. I too have numerous holes in the yard and food named birdies.
      Mimi’s 13 and henaynei like this.
  22. Sunny-Side Up
    I'm in awe of the way you write! That was hilarious, and we all can relate! I was bursting out laughing and all of my chicks freaked out wondering what happened to me...:lauKeep it coming!!!
  23. micstrachan
    Haha! I had never eeen this article. I love it!
      henaynei likes this.
  24. Rob Tof
    Boy does the dead bird thing make me laugh. I to thought I lost 6 of my 8 hens on there sides foot out and in the air the first time I let them free range. I almost cried all that work raising the chicks building a great coop and run. First time I let them out they all die. Then I looked closer. One flipped over on its back dirt flying everywhere had to laugh. I spend more time enjoying watching chicken tv then real tv when it’s warm enough out. It’s a great way to blow off steam. My wife even comes out with me and we both have a good laugh.
      henaynei, ~Cuba~ and ChickNanny13 like this.
  25. penny1960
    loved reading your trials and tribulations
      henaynei likes this.
  26. chickenmeadow
    I do hope that there will be a sequel or more to this delightfully honest & funny saga. Thanks for the laughs; I'll keep reading & looking for more if you feel inspired. Best wishes.
      JSWolf, Mimi’s 13 and henaynei like this.
  27. Hopperkiller
    Lines #1 and 8 cracked me up. Roosters are no different than teenaged boys when a cute girl walks by. Same thing, both are strutting. Chickens playing dead in the sun got my wife and grandkids. I told them they were doing the same thing they did but had no bathing suits.

    My grandkids were next door when their house was under construction and came running to me telling my cow was dead. I told them she was walking around 30 minutes ago. We went to look and saw her lying down in a depression. Then the kids saw her leg move. I took them in the utv out to her and stopped. They saw a calf being born. Animals are always treating humans to some "firsts".

    I can't go into the conversation my daughter-in-law had with me concerning her dogs activity while mating unexpectedly, since this a family oriented site. HINT: if you look up the origin of blonde jokes you will see her picture and she has 2 teens. Keeping a straight face and answering question almost killed me.

    Yep animals can bring joy laughter and even teach humans.
  28. henaynei
    This was Great!
    Well done and jolly well totally “informative.”
    Maybe you should blog your chicken adventures and make some extra $ to help with the chicken feed!
      DaviJones likes this.
  29. DaviJones
    This was such a great article! Thank you for posting this! Number 8 brought back so many good memories of fostering and brooding chicks.
      henaynei likes this.
  30. KettermanHillCoop
    Fabulous read! I love a good chuckle with my coffee...while sitting in the run with my feathered friends.:D
      henaynei likes this.
  31. Sweet-pea
    New to chicken raising so I took a peek at this. I could not stop laughing! Thank you!
      henaynei likes this.
  32. Katnapz
    I'm on the verge of adopting my first chickens this spring. THANK YOU for saving me time by not having to freak out and Google! Please write more!
      henaynei likes this.
  33. The Phantom
  34. Abriana
    Wow! So well written and hilarious too!
      henaynei likes this.
  35. ChickNanny13
    Great article. True, that "dropping" in the sun brings back memories...My 4yr started screaming & cried so much, though his chick was dying. I can laugh now but not then.
      henaynei likes this.
  36. nickylou665
    Too funny and true! Great write up of the first time chicken experience.

    (I thought I broke my chickens the first time I let them range outside, too)
      henaynei likes this.
  37. CzyChikenMath
    Love it! TU :)
      henaynei likes this.
  38. JiltdRoyalty
    Great article!
      henaynei likes this.
  39. TheSpiceGirls
    OMG, SOOOOO true. But you forgot about the Preen Gland. I nearly hauled a hen off to the vet to have this very strange growth on her back that she would not stop nibble at, removed. I would have had to find a new vet out of sheer embarrassment after her explaining how totally normal this growth was on her back. Thank goodness for BYC.
  40. spitfire55
    this may be an old true story,i must say you made feel very good today because i just found this section in the backyard chickens and I myself just started raising by babies back in April 2014 and i have learned alot and tell you some of the things mine do ,,,i hope to see and here more stuff like this
      henaynei likes this.
  41. HugHess
    Whomever has the misfortune to miss this open invitation to learn the true art of Zen with their flock, will truly miss out on one of the most meaningful PROS of being owned by chickens! I can't wait for mine to play dead in the sunlight, I will look forward to joining them...
      henaynei likes this.
  42. ELauraD
      henaynei likes this.
  43. winteree
    what i want to know is about number 8 i have never heard of that or seen it in the time i have been raiseing chickens with my grandma. So i must ask what is it?
      guinealeghorn and henaynei like this.
    1. BarredRockMom
      It's called sun baking. It's completely normal and this is how they absorb Vitamin D, straight from the sun & into their little bones.

      But seriously, do yourself a mighty big favor & see if there's a YouTube video or something that you can watch. Watching a video & reading about it in advance of a first hand experience could save you from having to change your drawers.

      No joke, you think they're croaking before yet eyes & it's horrifying...until you get with the chicken program, that is. Their eyes fixate on a point outside of the Milky Way, their pupils dilate, their wing fully extends, they flop on to their side & go all stiff legged. Scares the ever loving b'jeezus outta ya. And just when you think they've crossed into the light, they snap back into the moment, pop up & go about scratching, etc.
  44. KC101
    I really injoyed this....
      henaynei likes this.
  45. KC101
    I really enjoyed this. NICE!!!
      henaynei likes this.
  46. BinaryChicken
    Wow!! Hilarious! You've had quite the experiences!
      henaynei likes this.
  47. mypollitos
    I know exactly how it feels!
    good job great article
      henaynei likes this.
  48. sourland
    Well written - a great and enjoyable read.
      henaynei likes this.
  49. ChicKat
    thanks for the funny article!
      henaynei likes this.
  50. drumstick diva
    Love-love-love your story but, please don't end it here - keep it going, especially need to hear more about Pepper and the gang

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