A chicken preens itself by covering its beak with oil from the oil gland and rubbing the oils onto its feathers. The oil gland is located just above a chicken's tail, on its lower back. When a chicken begins to preen, it will lift the feathers covering the oil gland and rotate its beak on it. This releases the oils onto the chicken's beak. It will then rub its oily beak against its feathers to give it a shiny look. When they do this, they become relatively waterproof and cleaner.
When a chicken dustbathes, it lies in dirt and uses its feet and body to shoot the dirt over themselves. It open up its feathers so the dust can get close to the skin. They do this to suffocate mites and other parasites that may be on the bird. Some people think that when a chicken dustbathes, they are having convulsions that will lead to death, so it's important to know the difference.
When a male chicken, or rooster, becomes about six months old, it will begin to crow. All crows are different depending on the age and breed of the bird. Some are loud and hideous while others are quieter and not as bad. Some people enjoy the sounds of crowing, but many people don't like natural alarm clocks. Depending on where you live, there may be laws stating that a rooster must be a certain length from the property line so it won't disturb the neighbors.
When chickens reproduce and want to make baby chicks, they mate. Mating usually starts off with the male making a high-pitched cluck to call over the female. He might continuously pick up and drop a piece of food that he gives to the hen. Next, he performs a dance where he stretches out one wing and struts around the hen. The hen then either couches down, or runs. If she crouches, the male jumps onto the back and releases semen into the females vent. To balance, he might pull on the females neck feathers. This is how eggs are fertilized and must be kept warm to hatch.
Below is a video of my chickens mating:
When a female chicken, or hen, becomes about six months old, it will begin to lay eggs. An egg is basically made up of a shell, white, and a yolk. Eggs are different sizes, colors, and qualities depending on the breed of the bird, the age of the bird, the food it is given, and how the hen is cared for. Chicken eggs do not carry a fetus unless there is a rooster to fertilize it. There is more information on eggs on the 'Eggs' page of the site.
Like all other living creatures, chickens must drink to survive. They should have fresh water everyday. I would not reccomend giving your chickens anything but water, as it could make them sick. When chickens drink they collect water by dipping their beaks into the water, then tilt their heads upwards and use gravity to swallow. During the hot summer days, it's a good idea to put ice cubes into the water to help keep it cool and during the winter, buy a water heater to keep it from freezing.
Like all other living creatures, chickens must eat to survive. They should have access to food everyday. Chickens will eat just about anything (including gardens). They love fresh fruit, vegetables, worms, insects, bread, and scraps of meat. They should mainly be fed layer seed to keep them healthy. Chickens will scavenge throughout the day picking up anyhting that might be edible. For more information on the eating habits of chickens, go to the 'Coops, Food, and Care' page of the site.
To find food, chickens will scratch at the earth. That means goign through leaves, dirt, sand, sticks, grass, or small stones to find food. Chickens sometimes swallow small stones they scratch up. The stones go to the chicken's gizzard, like a second stomach. The stones break up the food which makes for easy digestion.
Chickens, like dogs, might start to pant. They do this for several reasons: 1) They are nervous (such as riding in a car) 2) They are thirsty, and 3) They are hot. If you see a chciekn pant, make sure they have access to water and shade. On extremely hot days, they will lift their wings up to air them out.
When chickens go to bed, it is called roosting. Chickens beleive that the higher up they can get, the safer they will be. You might find free range chickens roosting on tree branches, or on a truck. Indoor chickens should have perches (usually rounded wooden bars) that are placed high up, or nesting boxes.
To get dust, bugs, or water off of them, similar to dogs, a chicken will shake its body and fluff out its feathers. Male chickens sometimes flap their wings viciously to scare off any threats to him or the other chickens. Usually my rooster will flap his wings then crow to scare me off.
Below is a video of Silky performing the feather fluff:
Chickens have thousands of different pitched chirps, peeps, and clucks all used to communicate. A mother hen will start to use high pitched clucks to communicate to her baby before it even hatches. She uses her clucks so the baby will know which hen is her and where she is. Short, deep, repetitive clucks from a rooster might means danger is near. They even have different sounds if a predator is coming from air or land. Silkadope sometimes repeats high pitched noises when she is happy or content and a shreak if she feels she is in danger.