How To Love Your Hens: Do Chickens Like To Be Pet?

Many people hold, pet, and even kiss their chickens…but do your chickens like it? Do they appreciate the up close and personal attention you give them? In this post we’ll answer the question: “Should I pet my chickens?” We will also discuss how to love your hens in the way they appreciate most.

You can and should pet your chickens. They will often respond very well to being held and petted. They like attention. Chickens are social birds and they need other chickens to survive. A human petting and holding them has the potential to be beneficial to them. It can fulfill some (not all) of their social and attention needs that would otherwise have to be fulfilled by the flock. This establishes a bond between you and your chickens. It will cause your chickens to be more trusting of you, which is a valuable benefit.

Petting your chickens will also help you get to know them better. By being more in tune with how they act normally, you have the ability to detect if something is wrong much quicker. If you have chickens, chances are you like chickens. Spending time petting and holding your chickens will be as fun for you as it is for them!

Roosters in particular benefit from petting and holding early on in life. People find that the more you handle your rooster when he’s young, the nicer he ends up being as he gets older. Roosters will likely never be as cuddly as hens can be. However, petting and holding at a young age will help you avoid some of the charging and aggressive pecking he will try on you as he gets older. The aggressive tendencies of roosters make holding and petting them as adults much harder than holding and petting hens.

Do All Chickens Like to be Pet?

Chickens have different personalities. Some are very cuddly while others just want to be left alone. It’s important to respect the wishes of each individual chicken. Some chickens do not enjoy being pet. If you force a not-so-touchy-feely introverted chicken to cuddle with you, it won’t be received well. The best thing you can do with chickens who want to be left alone is to leave them alone. You will only increase these birds’ stress levels if you try and pet them.

Other super cuddly chickens will fly up into your arms whenever you come around. They might even sunbathe in your lap as if they were a cat! Most chickens will fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

Any older chicken who wasn’t pet or held as a chick will likely be resistant to being pet or held the first few times you try. If you are are trying to start petting full grown hens who aren’t used to people touching them, you will have to be patient with them. It will take them a while to get used to it (and as explained above, some may not ever like it). Even if the hen was pet when it was young by someone else, it may still take her a while to warm up to you specifically. Patience is key!

The breed of chicken is also a factor to consider. Some birds are more flighty than others. There are certain chicken breeds that are more curious and extroverted. Knowing the characteristics of your breed(s) can help you figure out how much petting and holding your birds will enjoy. However, personality still applies. Even the friendliest breed of chicken will have birds that don’t like to be touched.

How to Pet Your Chicken Correctly

No chickens like to be pet incorrectly. You should be petting your chicken very gently and in the direction of her feathers. Chickens have thinner skin than dogs or cats. Using a lot of pressure will not feel good to your hen. You likely won’t hurt her, but your hen will not be in a hurry to have that experience again. There’s a reason “ruffling feathers” is an expression for making someone irritated or upset. Your chickens will have a negative reaction to their feathers being literally ruffled.

Sometimes, chickens will fly up onto your shoulder or arm if it’s parallel to the ground. Other times, you might pick them up. If you pick them up, it’s important that you do it in a non-threatening and not surprising way. You will need to approach them slowly or let them come to you. Do not run towards your chicken. If your chickens are a little flighty, you may not want to focus to intently on them as you walk up to them either. You want to come off as non-threatening as possible. Your chickens also don’t appreciate surprises. Picking them up from above or behind will likely cause them to panic. Try picking them up from the side.

If you’re holding your chicken while you pet him or her, you will need to support the base of the chicken. You don’t have to support their legs but they should not feel like they’re about to fall out of your arms. They are very good at letting you know when they are distressed by flapping their wings. Side note: Do not get hit in the face by a flapping wing! I can tell you from experience, that hurts. This YouTube video shows you a great way to hold a chicken. During the video, you can tell that the hen feels calm the entire time she is being held.


Petting your chicken is a good thing to try. You can pet and hold your hens throughout their entire lives. It builds trust between you and them. Holding roosters when they are young decreases aggressiveness towards you in the future. You won’t want to pet or hold them when they get older though. Many roosters decide they dislike being messed with once they reach sexual maturity. Certain chickens will not like being touched at all. This will depend on the breed and personality of the chicken.

I mentioned earlier that people sometimes kiss their chickens. I want it on the record that I do not recommend kissing your chickens. Chickens do not necessarily perceive kissing as an act of love. It also puts you at risk for illness. The CDC is on record saying that kissing chickens can spread germs to your mouth and make you sick after a salmonella outbreak in May, 2021. Petting and holding your chickens is completely safe as long as you don’t touch your mouth and wash your hands afterwards!

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