Understanding Why Chickens Lay on Their Side: A Guide for Chicken Owners

Have you ever seen a chicken lying on its side and wondered if something was wrong? The first time I witnessed this peculiar behavior, I panicked. However, after gaining some knowledge about chickens and their habits, I realized that there are various reasons why they may lay on their side. In this guide, we will explore the different meanings behind this behavior and help you determine when it requires your attention.

Why Do Chickens Lay on Their Side?

Chickens can lay on their side for several reasons, and most of them are perfectly normal. Here are some common explanations for this odd behavior:


Similar to humans, chickens enjoy basking in the sun’s warmth. When a chicken lies on its side and stretches out its wings, it is often sunbathing. The sun provides chickens with essential vitamin D, which is necessary for their bone strength, egg-laying capabilities, and maintaining clean and healthy feathers.


Chickens engage in dust-bathing to keep their feathers clean and rid themselves of mites, lice, and other parasites. They typically choose a spot with fine sand or loose dirt to dust bathe in. This activity is communal, often accompanied by sunbathing and preening. Creating a designated area for dust-bathing can be beneficial for your chickens’ skin, feathers, and overall health.


Resting or sleeping on their side is a common behavior among chickens, particularly young chicks. Like children, chicks often fall asleep quickly and may assume unusual positions while sleeping. Adult chickens may also rest or sleep on their side, depending on their comfort level in the environment and the outside temperature. As long as they appear healthy and behave normally, there is no cause for concern.

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Although less common, a chicken lying on its side can indicate an injury. Injuries can range from minor wounds caused by pecking or scratching to major injuries resulting from attacks by predators. It’s crucial to assess the chicken’s overall health and behavior to determine whether the injury is serious or just a temporary setback.


In some cases, a chicken lying on its side may be a sign of illness. Observe any changes in the chicken’s appearance or behavior for indications of illness. Abnormalities in the comb’s color, eye and nostril drainage or swelling, unkempt appearance, abnormal droppings, and changes in appetite or activity levels can all indicate potential health issues. If you suspect your chicken is ill, it’s important to take action promptly to ensure their well-being.

What to Do if Your Chicken is Injured or Ill?

If you suspect that your chicken is injured or ill, it’s essential to determine the severity of the situation. Minor injuries can often be treated at home, while life-threatening injuries and serious illnesses may require veterinary care. To prevent the spread of transmissible illnesses and further harm to the affected bird, separate it from the rest of the flock.

For minor injuries like cuts or surface punctures, cleanse the wounds with suitable disinfectants and keep the area clean. Foot injuries like bumblefoot or internal issues like being egg-bound can be treated with warm, saltwater baths. Proper nutrition is crucial for overall chicken health and can prevent deficiencies and other health issues.

In severe cases, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian for the best advice and possible treatment options. Keep the injured or ill chicken in a warm, quiet area, and apply pressure to any bleeding wounds while awaiting professional guidance. Ensure you follow your vet’s treatment plan, including regular cleaning and dressing of wounds if necessary.

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Remember, being familiar with your chickens’ typical appearance and behavior is vital for recognizing when something is wrong. By understanding the reasons behind a chicken lying on its side and knowing when to seek professional help, you can provide the best care for your feathered friends.

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