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Understanding Chicken Behavior: The Submissive Squat or "Lordosis"


Recently you might have noticed that your pullets, who used to scatter and run when you approached them, now stop, drop and squat at your feet.

But before you pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself that all these weeks of bringing them treats has finally paid off and now they are cool with you petting them, keep reading to find out what that 'squat' really means.


When they are just about mature enough to lay eggs, young hens will start to squat down when you go to pet them - or even just walk past them.

They bend their legs and crouch, and sort of flatten their wings and backs. I refer to it as the "submissive squat", but the correct name is "lordosis". Here's why they do it:

They are Reaching Egg Laying Maturity

By squatting, a soon-to-be-laying pullet is signaling that she is ready to lay eggs, and you may very well see her first egg within days of when she first begins to squat. 

Submission

Squatting is also a sign of submission - a shift into the mating position for a rooster. This goes hand in hand with the laying thing above, because clearly there's no point in being mounted by a rooster if the hen isn't laying eggs yet.

Just because you don't have a rooster in your flock, this won't dissuade the hens from being submissive to a member of their 'human' family. In a way, they see YOU as the rooster.



You might also see younger hens or those lower in the pecking order squat for the older hens or those higher in the pecking order - again, a submissive stance.


Defense

A hen may also be squatting because a squatting hen is a protected hen. By squatting and freezing in place when a predator approaches, the hen is very low to the ground and her vulnerable underbelly is protected.

Also, predators, especially aerial predators, hunt partially by looking for movement, so by squatting and not moving the hen has a better chance at going undetected.

Regardless of the reason for the squatting, the behavior does make your chickens far easier to catch if you need to check them over, give them medication or just give them a little lovin'. And if you want to go on believing that they are squatting so you will pet them, then go right ahead!  No harm in that.



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