Why Do Chickens Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them? 6 Surprising Reasons!

Chickens are social birds and they form loving bonds with their owners. They also appreciate being petted and may occasionally cuddle with their humans.

So what does it mean if you pet your chicken and it closes its eyes? Is it brushing you off? Falling asleep? 

Let us find out!

Why Do Chickens Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them?

Chickens close their eyes when you pet them because they are enjoying your presence and savoring the moment. Your bird trusts you and closing its eyes when you touch it is a sign that it is comfortable with you. In the wild, chickens always keep their eyes open for predators. But when you are stroking your hen, it can relax. Closing the eyes could also mean that your pet is protecting itself from any accidental poking.

6 Reasons Why Chickens Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them

Several factors influence a chicken’s behavior. Here are some probable reasons why your bird might close its eyes when you touch it:

It Enjoys The Sensation

Your chicken finds the petting action soothing, calming, and enjoyable. It loves the feel of your hands and can sense the love and affection from you as you stroke it. The petting action de-stresses your bird. 

Closing its eyes is a way for your bird to better focus on and enjoy the pleasurable sensation of being petted. It also alleviates any residual stress or anxiety, indicating that the chicken is feeling safe and protected.

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It Trusts You

Chickens are social birds capable of forming close, loving bonds of trust with their humans. Birds that grow up around humans trust them and depend on them to take care of all their needs – food, water, shelter, etc. If your chicken closes its eyes while you pet it, it indicates that it feels safe and comfortable in your presence.

It Can Relax Its Guard Around You

Chickens are prey animals and are in constant fear of predators. They are in danger from terrestrial animals as well as large birds like eagles and hawks swooping down on them from above. Consequently, free-ranging chickens never relax and are always alert and on guard.

But when you are petting your hens, they may feel safe. Closing their eyes is a sign that they feel safe and protected with you by their side.

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It is Surrendering To You

Your chicken could also close its eyes to indicate that it is surrendering to you. It considers you superior or dominant and takes on the submissive role. Closing its eyes is a sign of the acceptance and affection it feels for you as its alpha.

A smiling woman holding a speckled chicken in her hands.

Self-Protection Mechanism

In some cases, chickens close their eyes to protect them. Predators often poke prey birds like chickens in their eyes. 

Perhaps the chicken may have hurt its eye before and might be closing it to protect it from accidental poking.

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It is Tired, Sleepy, or Unwell

If your chicken keeps its eyes closed even after you stop petting it, it may be tired or sleepy. There is a small chance it is unwell. Observe your bird for a few days to see if it shows any other signs of illness.

Do Chickens Like Being Petted or Touched?

Yes, chickens that are used to humans usually allow their owners to pet and touch them. In fact, tame chickens love getting attention from their humans and will gladly allow them to pick them up and cuddle them. Most chickens are friendly, docile, social, and affectionate. 

Some species of chickens may be slightly aloof. They may take some time to warm up and they won’t immediately let you pick them up.

Some of the friendliest chicken varieties that loved being petted and held include Silkies, Faverolles, Sultan Chickens, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, and Australorp.

What Are the Signs of Chicken Affection?

Here is how chickens show their affection for humans:

Following You Around 

Your chicken might follow you around or approach you excitedly when it sees you. It might make some happy clucking sounds. It will also show curiosity and might peck at your shoes or clothes, as it wants to explore and get to know you. The fact that it follows you around means it trusts you and feels safe and secure in your company.

Eating from Your Hand

Your chicken might eat out of your hands as a way of showing trust. It is not afraid of you. Sharing food is one of the ways for these birds to bond with humans.

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Perches on You or Cuddles with You

Since your chicken feels safe with you, it might perch on your shoulder and may even settle down for a rest. This indicates that it feels safe and loved in your presence and cuddling is its way of showing affection.

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How Do You Tell if a Chicken Is Afraid of You?

Here are some indications that a chicken is afraid of you:

Labored Breathing

Labored breathing indicates that your chicken is stressed or anxious. If it starts breathing rapidly in your presence, it could be afraid. However, labored breathing could also be due to other stresses in the environment like unhygienic conditions, predator attacks, overcrowded coop, etc.

Reflex Behavior

Reflex behaviors like flinching, shying, or shaking the head from side to side are some other signs that a chicken is afraid. If your birds show these signs when you approach their coop, they could be afraid of humans.

A child in an orange shirt affectionately holding a brown chicken in a green yard.

Flighty Behavior

Some chicken species are naturally more flighty than others. However, if your bird tends to fly away each time you approach, it might be skittish or nervous in their presence.

Pacing Up and Down

If your chickens pace around, flap their wings, or travel around the yard when you approach, these body activities indicate they are afraid when you enter their territory. Give them some time to get used to your presence.

Conclusion – Why Do Chickens Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them?

If your chicken closes its eyes when you pet it, it is a sign that it is feeling safe and secure with you. It is also enjoying the love, affection, and attention from you. 

There is a small chance that your bird wants to protect its eyes from being poked or that it is sleepy or tired. But mostly, it is a sign that your bird trusts you completely.

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