Chickens do not cry. In fact, they are not physically able to cry as they do not have tear ducts. This doesn’t mean that chickens do not get sad or depressed, because they do. They show these emotions in different ways.
Do Chickens Have Tear Ducts?
This is an interesting question. From my experience - and talking with others in the backyard chicken community - I couldn’t find one person who thought that chickens had tear ducts.
No-one I know who has owned chickens has ever seen them cry - because they don’t cry.
Yet, researching this topic looking in scientific papers and sites with credibility, I’ve found mixed answers.
I have read that birds do have tear ducts, but don’t use them to cry. I’ve also read that chickens do not have tear ducts because they have a third eyelid that cleans the surface of their eye, so they don’t need to shed tears.
Either way, everyone who has owned chickens seems to agree that chickens do not cry. Tear ducts or not.
Do Chickens Have Feelings?
Yes, chickens do have feelings - a wide range of different feelings.
Studies have been able to show they feel empathy for one another, they also demonstrate both positive and negative emotions, such as fear, anger, happiness, and a lot in between.
Chickens also feel pain. This also comes as a surprise to a lot of people when I tell them this.
Although, I really don’t see why it’s so surprising. Just because so many of us eat chicken, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain when they’re alive.
If you’re feeling a little guilt or curiosity about the slaughtering process, the National Chicken Council details the different stunning methods used to ensure chickens do not feel any pain while being slaughtered.
There are still some uncertainties around exactly how chickens, and most animals, experience pain. But we know they have the same nervous system, neurochemicals, perceptions, and emotions that are involved in how we experience pain.
Related - Do chickens love their owners? They do!
Do Chickens Get Sad?
Chickens absolutely do get sad, yes. I’ve seen it myself, and it’s heartbreaking, honestly.
They can experience sadness due to a lot of the same reasons we do; such as feeling lonely, morning the loss of a flock mate, being picked on, and so on.
Sadness can have a negative effect on their health, so it’s important you are aware of the signs that you have a sad chicken and know what to do to cheer them up.
Here are some of the signs that may indicate you have a sad chicken:
- Their comb and wattle are pale, and their comb might even be flopping to one side
- They’re not eating or drinking as much as normal
- You’ve noticed they are being less social with you and your other chickens
- They are acting lethargic or not their “normal” selves
- They are making different noises
- They are not laying regular eggs or their eggs are undersized
I recommend reading up on how chickens imprint on the first moving object they see after hatching. It explains a lot about the emotional attachments they form.
How to Cheer up Sad or Lonely Chickens
So, you’ve spotted the signs, you have a sad chicken in need of cheering up.
It’s not that difficult, and honestly, in my experience, if you can address what’s bothering them they will bounce back quickly.
If they’re being picked on or bullied, you’ll need to separate them from the flock for a while. Typically, you’ll spot damage to their comb, patchy fur, or some other physical signs if they’re being pecked at.
Chickens form a pecking order within the flock. It’s like a hierarchy, with a boss at the top, and unfortunately, the weaker members at the bottom of the pecking order get pushed around.
Sometimes, introducing some new foods can cheer chooks up. Especially if you can hang some tasty treats, like bananas, dried fruits, etc. This gives them something to peck at and play with.
Changing up their scenery can also help. Maybe you can move their run? Or, extend the amount of space they have to free-range?
Anything that gives them some new sights, smells, and experiences might be just what they’re looking for.
Also, a basic rule of raising backyard chickens is that you have at least three chickens. Chickens are social animals and fare much better with other chickens to keep them company.
Chickens may not be able to cry, but it doesn’t mean they do not get sad or depressed.
Part of our responsibility when raising backyard chickens is to make sure they’re as happy and as healthy can be.
This means keeping a close eye on your flock for any issues. If you think you have a sad or sick chicken, do what’s necessary to get them back to 100%.
Thinking Chickens - link.springer.com