Do chickens mourn their dead?

Answered by Cody Janus

Chickens, like many social animals, have complex social dynamics and can form strong bonds with their flockmates. When a flockmate passes away, it is not uncommon for chickens to exhibit signs of mourning. While we may not fully understand their emotions, there are observable behaviors that suggest a sense of loss and grief.

One of the most apparent signs of mourning in chickens is a change in behavior. A hen that was close to the departed flockmate may become withdrawn and less active. She may spend more time alone, away from the rest of the flock. This change in behavior can be seen as a reflection of her emotional state. Just like humans, chickens can experience sadness and depression.

In some cases, a hen’s mourning can become so severe that it affects her physical health. She may lose her appetite, leading to weight loss and weakness. Her feathers may become dull and ruffled, and she may appear lethargic. This decline in physical health is often referred to as “failure to thrive” and can sometimes result in the hen’s untimely death.

It is important to note that not all chickens mourn in the same way, and the intensity and duration of their grief can vary. Some hens may only exhibit signs of mourning temporarily, gradually returning to their normal behavior and recovering from the loss. However, for others, the grieving process can be prolonged, and they may never fully recover from the death of their flockmate.

There are several theories as to why some chickens are more deeply affected by the loss of a flockmate than others. It is possible that the intensity of the bond between the two chickens plays a role. Chickens that have spent more time together and formed stronger social connections may experience a more profound sense of loss.

Additionally, chickens are highly perceptive creatures and can sense the emotions of their flockmates. If a hen witnesses the death of a flockmate or is present during the mourning process, it can further amplify her own grief. This is why some hens may suddenly pass away after the loss of a close companion, seemingly due to a broken heart.

It is important for chicken keepers to be aware of the potential impact of loss on their flock. Providing support and companionship to grieving hens can be beneficial. Introducing new flockmates gradually can help alleviate loneliness and provide the opportunity for new bonds to form. Creating a stimulating and enriching environment with plenty of space, natural light, and opportunities for social interaction can also contribute to the overall well-being of the flock.

Chickens do mourn the loss of their flockmates. While the exact nature of their emotions is still not fully understood, their grieving behaviors and the potential physical consequences of loss are evident. As caretakers, it is essential to recognize and address their emotional needs, providing a supportive environment that promotes healing and well-being.