Chicken Behavior at Night

Chickens are active and full of personality by day… then when the sun goes down they turn in to a total milk dud. I don’t understand the reason for this zombie-like behavior, except maybe as an asset to chicken keepers.


Chickens have a strong homing instinct which drives them to return to the same place to roost at dusk. Because of that homing instinct, once chickens have spent a few nights in the coop provided for them, they will continue to return there night after night. However, it is not uncommon to have one or even a few that insist on choosing another place to roost, such as a tree limb, roof, or fence. If this occurs, you can place them in the coop by hand. It may take a week or so before they figure out where home is supposed to be. But with a little persistence on your part, they all do. So, yes, chickens are trainable.

A chicken’s night behavior is indeed weird,  but if you’re smart you can certainly use it to your advantage. Night is the best time to handle, inspect, and doctor chickens. Especially the ones that are difficult or impossible to catch during the day. Every flock has a few birds that are feisty and full attitude, don’t sweat it… they all turn into a sac of potatoes when the sun goes down.

Even if you sneak a new bird in the coop after dark, it will most likely go unnoticed until morning. Some chicken keepers choose to introduce birds this way. However, I must warn you, a chicken’s night stupor disappears the moment they march out of the coop at the crack of dawn. Then it’s a whole new ball game of unkind introductions!


The Chicken’s Senses

Hearing and Sight

Chickens have an acute sense of hearing; they don’t have an ear lobe but have a well developed ear. They have panoramic vision of about 300°, and binocular of about 26°. They can’t rotate their eyes very much, therefore, move their head to follow objects. Their ability to discriminate color is yet to be learned.

Rhode Island Red


A large part of their communication is postural, which signifies both threat and submission. But I have observed vocal communication skills which indicated a wide variety of sounds pertaining to:

• Mating
• Contentment
• Food
• Danger / Fear
• Submission
• Territories
• Distress
• Warning
• Nesting
• Laying eggs


My observations on the chicken’s ability to taste is limited to their dislike of food that is bitter, sour, too sweet, or too salty. They have about 340 taste buds in comparison to a human’s 10,000. They don’t like drinking water that is warmer than their body temperature, but show a liking for near freezing water.


There is very little research available about a chicken’s sense of smell, or if it’s of any significance to them at all.  But one thing I know for sure, they have an incredible sense of smell for blood.

Observe your Chickens

The best way to better understand your chickens is to watch them, observe their behavior and their individual character traits.  Every member of your flock has likes and dislikes, and a personality all their own. In time, you will be able to identify behaviors by a specific sound or call.  There is a structured language among your flock members, listen, watch, and learn!