Why Do Chickens Squat Down

I recently acquired a new flock of lying hens, which is a first for me, as I’ve never bought point-of-lay chickens before. 

The whole experience has been quite an eye-opener, and I’ve noticed certain behaviors that my previous flock of Australorps never exhibited. 

While my Australorps would use flight and fight responses to evade my efforts to get them into the coop at night, my new hens simply squat down and wait for me to gather them all up. 

It certainly makes safeguarding them in the evenings a lot easier – I just go around and pick up each of my squatting hens and carry her carefully to her chicken bedroom. 

Although convenient, it made me wonder if there was something wrong with my flock, so I decided to find out more about why chickens squat and what they’re trying to tell me when they hunker down. 

The results of my research were fascinating, so I thought I’d share them with you.

What Happens When A Chicken Squats Down?

When a chicken squats or crouches, she bends her legs and lowers her body towards the ground. She also lowers her tail, flattens her back, and holds her wings away from her body.

In this position, she looks extremely vulnerable, causing farmers and backyard chicken owners to refer to it as the “submissive squat.”

The scientific term for this behavior is lordosis, which is more commonly used to describe an animal with a sway-back.

While squatting, the hen remains completely still. Even if you approach her, she won’t move a muscle, making it easy for the handler to pick her up and give her a thorough examination.

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This behavior isn’t exclusive to specific breeds but is performed by all types of chickens, be they layers or broilers.

Admittedly, I never saw my Australorps squatting, but that’s probably more indicative of my position in the flock than a reflection of their breed-specific behavior. Why? I’ll explain in the following section.  

5 Reasons Chickens Squat Down 

Chickens squat or crouch down for several different reasons:

#1 Young Chickens Squat to Show Submission

The most common reason for a chicken to squat down is submission. As you know, there’s a strict pecking order within any flock, with the most dominant hens getting first pick (or peck) of the best food and the most comfortable roosts. 

Chickens situated further down the pecking order need to watch their P’s and Q’s to avoid getting, quite literally, hen-pecked! 

If a less dominant hen finds herself face-to-face with a dominant flock member, she’ll adopt the submissive squat to show her willingness to surrender to their superiority. 

By lowering herself to the ground, she indicates that she isn’t a threat to the more dominant hen and is willing to accept her lowly position within the hierarchy. 

The fact that my Australorps never squatted for me is a clear indication that they considered me to be pretty low down in the flock’s pecking order – something that I was well aware of. 

I feel pretty powerful now when I have 10 hens all squatting down, awaiting my next move! 

#2 Hens Crouch Down When They’re Receptive to Mating 

Chickens don’t only squat to show submission but also to show a rooster they’re receptive to mating.

Younger birds tend to exhibit this behavior more than older hens because they’re keen to start their reproductive journey.

Squatting in a young hen is a bit like a teenager flicking her hair and giggling when a good-looking guy’s around! 

Not only is a squatting chicken giving the rooster the come-on, but she’s also preparing herself for the sometimes violent mating process.

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When chickens mate, the rooster climbs on the hen’s back and holds himself in position with his claws and beak!

Not a very comfortable prospect for the chicken, so she positions herself in a way that protects her most vulnerable parts while inverting her cloaca to allow the rooster easier access. 

This complex process is made somewhat easier by the hen crouching down as this enables the rooster to climb on top more easily. By flattening her back, she also gives him a wider surface to balance on.

#3 Chickens Squat More As Laying Age Approaches 

As a chicken approaches laying age, she’ll start squatting whenever the rooster is in the vicinity.

She uses the submissive squat to show that she’s ready and willing and that the rooster can climb aboard without fear of reprimand.

Hens will only start squatting for a rooster when they’re ready to produce eggs, as mating before this is pointless.  

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#4 Vulnerable Chickens Crouch Down and Freeze  

I’d hate to think that my presence frightens my chickens or makes them feel vulnerable, but that is one of the reasons chickens crouch or squat down. 

Imagine you’re an eagle or another type of raptor. As you fly overhead, you scour the earth for any sign of life. Anything that moves is a potential meal – a fact that chickens are well aware of.

If a chicken feels there’s a potential threat in the form of a bird of prey or another type of predator, she will crouch down and freeze, making it harder for the potential attacker to spot her amongst the vegetation. 

#5 Frightened Hens Squat to Protect Themselves  

If a human feels threatened, one natural response is to curl into a fetal position because, in doing so, we protect our vital organs and brains.

When a chicken squats, she’s doing much the same thing. By crouching close to the ground, the chicken can more effectively protect her vulnerable belly or underside. 

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5 Reasons, why Chickens Squat Down 

FAQs 

Why is my chicken squatting while walking?

For the most part, a chicken that squats when it walks is showing a rooster that she’s ready to mate.

Another reason is that she’s submitting to you and hoping you’ll stop to pet her or pick her up. In some instances, this behavior may be indicative of a health issue.

A hen may squat when walking because she’s egg-bound or because her balance is impaired, which could be a symptom of an inner ear infection, dehydration, or the early stages of Marek’s disease. 

Why do chickens squat and stomp their feet?

When I was a child, I used to stomp my feet out of anger or frustration, but chickens do it for very different reasons. If a chicken’s squatting and stomping their feet at the same time, it’s a clear sign that they’re ready to start laying.

If they exhibit this behavior when you approach them, you should feel suitably flattered – it means they think you’re a handsome rooster who’s well worth mating with! 

If one of your chickens squats and stomps her feet when you approach, take a moment to give her a scratch for a gentle stroke. She’ll most probably respond by standing up, shaking out her feathers, and strutting off with a little more spring in her step!

Why do chickens squat when you pet them?

When you reach out a hand to pet a chicken, they may respond by crouching down and flattening their backs because they interpret your actions as a form of rooster-like dominance.

By squatting down in front of you, they’re letting you know that they’re both compliant and submissive. This type of behavior is most commonly seen in young hens that are just about to start laying.

Parting Thoughts 

When it chicken squats down, it usually indicates that she’s receptive to mating, but it can mean other things depending on the circumstances.

Chickens squat to protect themselves and to show submission according to the flock’s strict pecking order.

The reason I never saw my Australorps squatting was because they were already a couple of years old when I got them and only saw me as a mere servant rather than the dominant old hen that I truly am!

I rather like my new, submissive flock and make an effort to reward every squat with a quick pet or cuddle. After all, it’s the first time as a backyard chicken owner that I’ve actually been treated with respect! 

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