Chickens are crazy creatures and you never know what they'll do next, but much of their weirdness stems from an instinct that dates back to the dawn of time.
When it comes to digging holes, chickens have the foot structure and instincts that make them master diggers. The ability to dig well can be useful for chickens for a number of reasons.
The main reason chickens dig holes in the ground is to help them get maximum dirt coverage under their feathers when dust bathing. They also dig holes to find cool soil on hot days to find food, lay eggs, and in some cases just to escape.
Read on to learn more about how, why and how chickens dig holes to sit in, as well as some tips on how to prevent your chickens from digging holes in your yard.
Why do chickens dig holes?
If you have chickens and they dig holes in the enclosure or in various places when they are free roaming, there can be a variety of reasons.
Here are the reasons your chickens might dig:
1- Chickens dig holes for dust bathing
The main reason chickens dig a hole, or dig a chicken-sized pothole in the ground, is so they can bathe dust and get rid of parasites and dirt from their skin and under their feathers.
When a chicken bathes in dry soil or other loose surfaces, it will spread out and use its wings to get as much dust on its body as possible.
By creating a hole or depression in the ground, they can contain the dust around them and bring more of it into their bodies for maximum effect.
Chickens often bathe in dust in groups, so it's common to see them digging and flapping their wings in unison.
2- Chickens dig holes on a hot day
Chickens tend to dust bath on warmer days when the ground is dry and often combine this with sunbathing and relaxing.
Chickens can regulate their body temperature by fluffing their feathers, flapping their wings, and gasping for air, but they also like to seek cool perch, and one of the best spots is cool ground.
The surface of soil or dust is much warmer than the soil below, so chickens often dig holes to bathe and cool off on a hot day.
3- Chickens dig holes to find food
Typically, chickens graze with their beaks on the surface for bits of food and vegetation, or in loose soil with their feet to claw and dig for live food such as worms.
When the chickens find a good piece of soil rich in worms and other critters, they will keep searching to find as many treats as possible. Since chicken feet are very strong, they can quickly create holes and sinkholes in the ground when digging.
This type of digging can actually be helpful, as chickens are very good at raking the soil with their feet, finishing it and removing small weeds as they walk.
So the next time you're gardening, you might want to get your chickens to come in and help out!
4- Chickens dig holes to lay eggs
This behavior is less common but can occur when a hen is incubating and wants to sit down and incubate a clutch, or when there is a problem preventing her from laying eggs in the coop.
If the hens lay eggs elsewhere, it's usually in an isolated location, e.g. B. under hedges, but in some cases they lay eggs in a hole dug in the ground.
This is not an ideal situation as it puts the chicken at risk of being attacked by a predator.
If you have a hen that does this, read the following article for help dealing with a hen that won't lay eggs in the coop:
Chickens Lying in Hedges or Bushes (How to Stop It)
5- Chickens dig to escape
If you have chickens you know that they are excellent escape artists and if they are not allowed to escape much they will do their best to get out to graze.
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article, which was first published on April 7, 2021.
Chickens dig holes to escape is one of the more unusual reasons chickens dig holes, but it especially happens when there's a section of the fence they know they can easily get through with a little work.
There are always times when you need to let your chickens run for some reason, but to prevent them from getting bored and frustrated during the run it's always good to give them free time each day.
How to stop chickens from digging holes
Since digging is a natural part of chicken behavior, it's impossible to stop them from digging, but you can stop them from digging in places you don't want them.
When chickens dig for dust baths or for food, they usually have their favorite spots where the soil is loose, dry, and easy to dig.
If that spot is your favorite flower bed and you don't want them going there, the only real way to keep them out is to fence or cordon off that area.
Once a chicken likes a certain spot, it will keep going there, and because it can be very determined, it will keep going if not stopped.
Fencing is the best way to keep them out, but if you don't want to do that, you can try covering bare dirt areas with rocks.
If you are removing your chicken's dust bathing area, it's a good idea to replace it with a specially designed area for them in a dry area where you don't mind digging, preferably with the option of some shade.
Places where chickens like to dig holes
When it comes to digging holes for a dust bath, chickens often choose an area with dirt or dirt that's prone to drying out and dusting.
The dust bath area of our hens is a soil bed with a small tree on it so they have the dry soil in a sunny location and the opportunity to have shade under the tree.
When digging for food, they will choose to dig in moist soil, which can be easily scratched and turned over to find worms.
Chickens dig holes: other frequently asked questions
How deep can chickens dig?
When chickens dig or find food after a dust bath, they usually scratch the surface and dive about 1 to 2 inches deep. In some cases they dig deeper to try to get their whole body into the hole.
Do roosters dig holes?
Roosters also dig holes for dust bathing or to find cooler ground to lie on, they have plenty of strength to dig a deeper hole than a smaller hen and will enjoy sitting and bathing in their hole on a warm day.
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Why do chickens dig and roll in the dirt? ›
When your chicken starts to feel dirty, she will burrow into a patch of loose soil and toss dirt all over herself to get clean. This process helps rid your chicken of parasites like lice and mites by suffocating those little buggers. Additionally, the dust absorbs excess oil and moisture on your chicken's skin.Do chickens dig for bugs? ›
In addition to digging for gravel, our chickens dig to eat worms and bugs (and anything green coming up). I like worms. I like what they do to the earth. I like that earthworms are a sign of happy soil.Why do my chickens keep digging holes? ›
The main reason chickens dig holes is because it is an instinctual behavior. They feel an internal drive to do so. There are also benefits to digging. The most common being to be able to take a dust bath, to stay cool in warmer temperatures, and to sometimes create a safe place to lay eggs.Why do chickens sit in the dirt? ›
Dirt bathing is just good chicken personal hygiene. Once you know what you look for and understand that dirt bathing is normal – actually healthy – it's hilarious. Chickens are such funny animals to watch. They have odd mannerisms and quirky little personalities.Why do chickens squat in front of you? ›
Squatting is a sign of submission – so she is shifting into the mating position for a rooster. If you don't have a rooster in your flock, she will often see YOU as the rooster. The squat also signals that she will soon begin to lay eggs.Why do chickens rub their beaks back and forth on the ground? ›
A chicken wipes its beak to clean it.
Chickens that eat anything messy — such as moistened feed or mashed boiled egg — wipe their beaks on the ground to clean off the goo. The stickier the food, the more they wipe.
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Cover the ground with wire cloth.
If you want to protect a broad area of mulch, recently sown seeds, or seedlings, you can usually do so by spreading a wire cloth over the entire patch of ground. Most chickens won't like the feeling of wire beneath their feet, so they will tend to stay away.
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Why do chickens put their feet in water? ›
Most hens will also enjoy standing in the shallow tubs. Simply wetting their feet can help to keep their body temperature down. Chickens do not like to get completely wet. Having soaking wet feathers also prevents them from being able to “fluff out” and cool their bodies.Why do chickens fall asleep when you put them on their back? ›
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Bed bugs, Cimex lectularius, are small (about . 33 inch or 5 millimeters long), flat, oval-shaped, wingless insects that feed on blood (Figure 1). Their primary hosts are humans, but they may also feed on chickens, other fowl, and mammals when given the opportunity.What does it mean when a chicken follows you? ›
When a chicken always seems to be following you around, it is simply trying to express how adored you are! Sure, sometimes chickens follow you when they want food or treats, but that isn't always the case. Some chickens will even stand on keepers' feet to try to get as close as they can to them.Do chickens recognize their owners? ›
Surprisingly, yes - chicken really do seem to recognise their owners. In fact, research has shown that chickens are capable of recognising up to 100 human faces, so it won't take them long to learn who their owner is.Do chickens like being picked up? ›
While they may not seem like the most obviously affectionate of animals, most backyard chickens grow very accustomed to their owners, often delighting in being picked up, petted and talked to in a soft and gentle manner.What noises do chickens make when they are happy? ›
Happy Chicken Sounds
Chickens tend to make a purring or trilling sound when they are content. They will also make soft sounds as they go about their daily activities. A sick or depressed chicken will make no noise. Alternatively, a chicken in distress will scream and make significant noise.
Recognising the signs of stress
Abnormal feathering. Constant preening of feathers even in the absence of external parasites. Increased aggression like feather pecking. Cannibalism.
Can chickens sense your emotions? ›
Chickens are the epitome of empaths. Empathy is one of the most interesting things about chickens. If a peer is hurt, stressed, or even happy, other chickens will not only understand, but share those feelings.Does apple cider vinegar deworm chickens? ›
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Chickens get several types of worms, but for backyard are typically limited to five common types. These include large roundworms, thread of capillary worms, cecal worms, tapeworms, and gape-worms.Can humans get worms from chickens? ›
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They've got two bean-shaped testes located against their backbone in front of the kidneys. Rooster testicles vary in size based on their age and time of year. If you butcher a rooster in the winter his testicles will be smaller than during the spring mating season, when they swell up considerably.
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The next question is perhaps, "Why do chickens lay unfertilized eggs at all?" The reason is that the egg is mostly developed before being fertilized. The chicken cannot know in advance whether the egg will end up fertilized or not, so it just has to go ahead and grow the egg in the hopes that it will be fertilized.
Can chickens hold grudges? ›
They form tight bonds with others in their flocks, and create social groups amongst themselves. Chickens do not all get along, however, and chickens will hold grudges against others for various reasons.Do chickens like being shut at night? ›
It is crucial that your hens stay in their coop at night. Despite what you might think, there are almost always predators around, even in urban areas. So keep your flock safe and secure.Does chicken cry at night? ›
The reason roosters rarely crow at night is because they are diurnal animals that sleep at night. If the rooster does crow at night, any number of factors could be to blame. He could be sick, he may sense a predator, or he may just be feeling a bit antsy.Why do chickens calm down upside down? ›
Then they went on to describe how chickens may act calm when they are upside down but the calming effect these chickens experience is actually from suffocation and not being able to breathe.Do chickens prefer warm or cold water? ›
Heat Your Chickens' Water
Chickens don't like drinking lukewarm water, they like drinking nice cold water. So when you're heating the water, make sure you don't heat it up too much. The purpose of heating the water should be to prevent it from freezing.
A good rule of thumb is that when temperatures rise between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it is time to begin cooling off your chickens. If temperatures are closer to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or beyond, it can be dangerous.What is it called when chickens roll in dirt? ›
Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops
While it may be entertaining for you, dust bathing is also a very important ritual for chickens, serving the purpose of keeping their feathers clean, and keeping them free of mites, lice and other parasites.