TRAUMA

Your Chickens - - Feature | Emotions -

Chick­ens re­act to hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ences the way many other an­i­mals do: They can sink into a de­pres­sion and show signs of fear and dis­tress for a long time after­ward. I saw this in a friend’s flock af­ter a weasel snuck in and killed nearly all of her two dozen hens. Only three of them es­caped to the rafters. One had a bite wound on her an­kle and was vis­i­bly shaken.

Once brought to safety, the three survivors seemed to suf­fer some sort of post­trau­matic stress. They stopped lay­ing eggs and spent their days hid­ing. My friend spoiled them with fresh veg­eta­bles and added new roosts and other dis­trac­tions. It took months, but even­tu­ally the trau­ma­tized hens be­gan be­hav­ing more nor­mally and were able to be­come part of a new flock.

Stud­ies have shown that chick­ens re­cover more quickly from stress­ful sit­u­a­tions when in the com­pany of friends. They as­so­ciate be­ing with their flock as be­ing safe and pre­fer to be with fa­mil­iar chick­ens over un­known ones. With fa­mil­iar com­pan­ions, ev­ery chicken knows where she stands. With un­known chick­ens, rank­ings in the peck­ing or­der must be es­tab­lished, which is stress­ful for them.

‘Their coos are quiet, soft mut­ter­ings that you have to lean into to hear - chicken whis­pers’

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