Can Chickens Love Their Owners

Can Chickens Love Their Owners? (Scientific Evidence Says “Yes”)

Chickens can and do demonstrate they “love” their owners. I know this for sure as I’ve been around chickens for a number of years. This isn’t purely anecdotal though, there is also scientific evidence to back this up.

Anecdotal Evidence That Chickens Love Their Owners

I love science-backed data, but at the same time, when we’re talking emotions you can’t beat anecdotal evidence that touches the heartstrings.

I have countless stories about my backyard chickens showing affection to me that I would say proves them “love” me as a member of their family.

You don’t have to look far online to find other accounts from chicken owners. You literally just have to drop into any backyard chicken forum – we’re a passionate bunch, I can tell you that.

Obviously, how chickens demonstrate they love us is open to interpretation a little. For me, some of the ways chickens show us they care about us include:

  • Following us around and showing a curious interest into what we’re doing
  • Sitting on our laps and enjoying being petted
  • Picking up on our patterns and eagerly waiting for us
  • Excitedly running to us and responding to our voices
  • Being held and “hanging out” with us

In my opinion, all of these acts of bonding between us and chickens clearly shows that they like us for being us.

They recognize our faces, pick up on our habits, notice what we wear and how we act, and in my opinion, genuinely care about us – just as we do them.

It’s not just my imagination either, here is some scientific evidence that chickens are a lot more intelligent and aware of emotions than most people think:

Related What it means when chickens “imprint” on their owners.

Studies and Science Behind Chickens’ Ability to Show Love and Empathy

Studies and Science Behind Chickens' Ability to Show Love and Empathy

There was a very in-depth and interesting study into a wide range of cognition, emotion, and the behaviors of domestic chickens published in 2017.

It’s a long scientific paper, so I don’t expect you to read it (it took me hours to fully digest it.)

To summarize some of the conclusions from the study that demonstrate chickens are capable of displaying empathy, emotions to humans, and essentially “love” us, the paper concluded:

Chickens are;

  • Capable of showing self-awareness and self-control.
  • Capable of communicating with us in several ways.
  • Able to learn and interpret complex social signals similar to how we do
  • Able to perceive and show complex positive and negative emotions.
  • Capable of exhibiting emotional contagion and empathy towards us, and

Most interestingly the study noted that chickens have distinct personalities and are “behaviorally complex individuals”.

I particularly like the fact that the study identified chickens have individual personalities. I’ve been saying this for years, and anyone who has raised chickens will know this – but it’s hard for people who have not to understand.

I’ve had chickens over the years with very strong personalities and individual preferences. Some would eat out of the palm of my hand, some wouldn’t. Some would follow me, others pay no attention, some have been lap chickens, others not, etc.

Can Chickens Learn Their Names?

This is another of those questions; we as chicken owners know chickens are perfectly capable of learning their names. While it comes as a surprise to everyone on the outside.

I don’t know about you, but I name each and every one of my flock. I’m not great with names, but thankfully, it’s never gotten to the point where I have too many chickens to remember all of their names.

I can call out individual names, and know that only the chicken by that name will respond. For me, that’s proof enough that chickens are able to learn their names.

Reading through the study I mentioned earlier, they didn’t test this specifically. They did, however, test a number of methods of communication. The chickens they studied responded to different forms of communication directed towards them.

In Summary

I feel like the question, “can chickens love their owners?” will only be asked by people who have not raised or owned chickens – else you’d know for sure how affectionate and loving chickens are!

If you’re asking because you’re considering raising chickens, I’m biased, but I can’t recommend it enough.

Chickens are highly intelligent, social, fun pets. Plus, they come with loads of added benefits other household pets don’t; they act as pest control in your yard, provide fresh eggs, and are an endless source of entertainment.


Image credits – Photos by Marie-Michèle Bouchard and Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash

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