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Chicks Cleaning Each Others Faces

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Finnie, Feb 13, 2015.

  1. Finnie

    Finnie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was wondering if mutual grooming is common among chickens, especially chicks as they develop their pecking order.

    I have observed my lavender Ameraucana chicks picking at each others beards and muffs and wondered if that might be a sign of submission, i.e. the dominant one allowing itself to be groomed by the others.

    I searched and couldn't find anything on this type of behavior, although I remember reading one time that hens will clean the faces of their rooster.

    Does one chick picking at another chicks face mean dominance vs. submission? Gender differences? Mites? (I've checked, there are no mites!)

    This face picking is different than when I observed the whole group pecking the back of the "runt".

    Thanks for any insight anyone can give me.
     
  2. Eggmachine11

    Eggmachine11 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Pecking at oneanothers face is just grooming basically,but you must know the difference from Grooming,and pecking.If their all pecking the runt,I doubt it is grooming.Sounds as if their trying to get rid of the runt.


    If it was anything to do with pecking order,and be much more aggression.
     
  3. Finnie

    Finnie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, you are right, the face cleaning does not include aggression.

    In dogs, a submissive puppy will lick the face of the dominant dog. I just wondered if it was anything like that with chickens. They are about 14 weeks old, and one will stand still while another one cleans his face. Will that tell me if one is male and another female?

    Now, in cats, its different. The kitten learns to hold still while momma cleans the face, or else she lets him have it! So I'm trying to figure out if holding still and getting cleaned means dominance or submission. Or maybe means nothing at all.
     
  4. Eggmachine11

    Eggmachine11 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If they have hen feathers,and act like pullets,their likely a hen.A rooster has a nice tail,and begins getting comb,which is likely dark red.It doesn't neccasarily mean it's male,nor its a hen,it's just something flock members do,naturally.My hens always pick at anothers face getting bread crumbs,bugs etc off,in fact,they even try to clean me!
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    This behavior has more to do with seeing food on a flock member's face and having the urge to eat it than it is about rank. Some chickens are real compulsive about seeing food on someone's face and cleaning it off, no matter their rank in the pecking order or age.

    I have one such hen who has made it her mission to clean everyone's face, and it keeps her quite busy. But they will all do it from time to time. The one who is getting cleaned always holds very, very still while it's going on, too. No one ever seems to refuse the offer of getting her face cleaned. I think it's one of the most charming behaviors chickens have.

    Occasionally, they will also try to clean butts, but not very often.
     
  6. Eggmachine11

    Eggmachine11 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    X2 above.My lowest hens do it,even though each time they are beat on.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Allogrooming. Occurs periodically between birds not contesting rank. Subordinate usually does it to superior.
     
  8. Finnie

    Finnie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ha Ha! Hopefully they can tell it's not food they are seeing there!

    Well thank you both! This has been very enlightening. Since I got my chickens, I have really enjoyed watching all the things they do. And I often find myself thinking "Why are they doing that? I wonder what it means".

    azygous, I think you have hit the nail on the head with them being compulsive about food. They should really be called pigs, not chickens! It always amazes me how they can spot a tiny bug on the ground and snatch it up before it gets away.

    I've noticed that they are very visual about their food. When I hold a treat out to them, they will eyeball it first to decide if it's anything they want. Not like my dogs who will snatch up anything I give them, and then spit it out when they realize its just lettuce!

    Eggmachine, thank you for the help on sexing chickens. Mine are just really late bloomers. I know those things will eventually show up. In fact, over the last two days, they have all lost all of their tail feathers, so I am really hopeful that soon I will be able to see some actual rooster or hen feathers. Alas, they have pea combs, and the slightest changes in those seem to be taking weeks and weeks. But in the meantime, I have lots of opportunity to observe their different behaviors. There was one that I was able to peg as a rooster at two weeks old, just because of his attitude and boldness. Not so much by how his comb is growing, since it really isn't yet.
     
  9. Finnie

    Finnie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you. I thought it seemed like something a subordinate would do.
     
  10. Finnie

    Finnie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I also wanted to mention, the very largest one I am positive was a rooster. I have sold him already. But I saw the others picking at his face a ton while he was still here, and so he was missing his beard and muff. He had new pin feathers growing in all over his face, so my thinking was that the other chicks must have pulled all his face feathers out. That's one reason why I wasn't sure if they were just grooming, or if they were actually plucking.

    And I wasn't sure if they were doing it because he was male and they were not, or whether they were doing it because he was the biggest and most dominant. Again, no aggression involved. They certainly weren't ganging up on him. After reading your answers above, I think maybe they were just overzealous in their face cleaning?

    I am going to start paying attention to whether they all get allogroomed, or whether a different one of them has inherited the top ranking spot from the one who left. (If he indeed had that rank.) My suspicion right now is that they are all cockerels. Even the one that I felt was a pullet is starting to get the same comb as the rest. They say a watched pot never boils. Well I think a watched comb never grows! I am really hoping some of these combs reverse the pattern they have begun!
     

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