Why do chickens lay on their side?

Chickens occasionally lay on their side for various reasons, which can range from natural behaviors to health issues. Understanding why chickens exhibit this behavior is important for ensuring their well-being and addressing any potential concerns.

Their Natural Instincts

Chickens, like many other birds, have an innate behavior called dust bathing. Dust bathing involves the chicken lying on its side and flapping its wings while covering itself with soil or dust. This process helps keep their feathers in good condition by removing dirt and parasites, and it also acts as a measure to cool down in hot weather. So, when you see chickens lying on their side, they might simply be indulging in a much-needed dust bath.


One of the reasons chickens may lay on their side is broodiness. Broodiness is an instinctual behavior in hens that makes them want to incubate eggs and raise chicks. When a chicken is broody, she may spend extended periods sitting on the nest, sometimes lying on her side with her wings spread out. This behavior helps regulate the temperature and humidity of the eggs she is incubating, ensuring their healthy development.

Illness or Injury

While some instances of chickens laying on their side may be perfectly normal, it is essential to be attentive to any abnormal behavior or signs of illness or injury. Certain health conditions, such as respiratory infections or injuries to the legs or feet, can cause chickens to sit or lie down on their side. If your chicken is exhibiting this behavior persistently, it would be wise to consult a veterinarian to rule out any potential health concerns.

Comfort and Relaxation

Similar to humans lying down to relax or rest, chickens may also lay on their side to find comfort. They may stretch out their legs or wings, or simply enjoy the warmth of the ground or nesting material. Providing the chickens with a clean and cozy environment, including suitable bedding and nesting spaces, can encourage them to exhibit this behavior when they feel safe and at ease.

Sleeping Position

Chickens have the ability to sleep in a variety of positions, including standing up, perching, or lying on their side. When chickens feel secure and safe, they may choose to lie on their side to sleep. This sleeping position allows them to relax their muscles and rest more comfortably. So, if you spot chickens lying on their side, they might simply be catching up on some much-needed sleep.

Feather Pecking or Bullying

In some cases, chickens may lay on their side due to feather picking or bullying from other members of the flock. Feather pecking is a behavior where one chicken pecks or pulls out the feathers of another chicken. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and even injuries, causing the affected chicken to seek refuge by lying on their side. Addressing any feather pecking issues and providing adequate space and enrichment for the chickens can help minimize this behavior.

In conclusion, chickens may lay on their side for various reasons, including natural instincts like dust bathing or broodiness, seeking comfort and relaxation, finding a comfortable sleeping position, or due to illness or bullying within the flock. While some instances may be harmless, it is crucial to monitor their behavior and consult a veterinarian if any concerns arise. By understanding why chickens lay on their side, we can ensure their well-being and provide a suitable environment for their natural behaviors.