Why does my chicken shake its head – Asking Experts

Have you ever noticed your chicken shaking its head and wondered why it’s doing so? This behavior is quite common in poultry, and there could be several reasons behind it. As a chicken owner, it’s essential to understand the causes of this behavior to ensure that your feathered friends stay healthy and happy. To shed some light on the subject, we’ve asked experts with proven studies to explain why chickens shake their heads. From parasites and infections to environmental factors, there are several reasons why your chicken may shake its head. So, let’s dive in and learn more about this quirky behavior!

Parasites And Infections

Chickens are susceptible to various parasites and infections that can cause them to shake their heads. One of the most common parasites in chickens is mites, which can live in the feathers, comb, and wattles of the birds. When infested with mites, chickens will often shake their heads vigorously to try to dislodge these tiny pests.

Another potential cause of head shaking in chickens is ear infection. Chickens have very sensitive ears, and an infection can cause discomfort and irritation, leading to head shaking. Ear infections can be caused by a range of bacteria or fungi and may require antibiotics or antifungal medication for treatment.

Lastly, respiratory infections can also cause chickens to shake their heads. These infections affect the respiratory system of the bird, making it difficult for them to breathe properly. As a result, they may shake their heads as a way to clear their airways. Some common respiratory infections in chickens include infectious bronchitis and avian influenza. Treatment for these infections typically involves antibiotics and supportive care such as increased hydration and ventilation.

Environmental Factors

After examining your chicken for parasites and infections, another potential reason it may be shaking its head could be due to environmental factors. Chickens are sensitive to their surroundings, and certain conditions can cause discomfort or irritation in their ears or eyes.

One possible environmental factor that could be causing your chicken to shake its head is a drafty coop. If there are gaps or cracks in the walls or roof of the coop, cold air can seep in and create uncomfortable conditions for your bird. This can lead to shaking of the head as they try to alleviate the discomfort.

Another possibility is an infestation of mites or lice in the coop. These pests can irritate your chicken’s skin and cause them to shake their head in an attempt to relieve the itchiness. Make sure you clean your coop regularly and use appropriate pest control measures to prevent infestations.

It’s important to consider all potential causes for your chicken’s behavior before making any changes or interventions. By considering both parasite/infection-related issues as well as environmental factors, you can ensure that you are taking a comprehensive approach to keeping your birds healthy and happy.

Nutritional Deficiencies

nutritional deficiencies

A possible reason why your chicken shakes its head could be due to nutritional deficiencies. Chickens require a balanced diet that contains essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals to maintain their health. If they lack these important nutrients in their diet, it can lead to various health problems, including shaking of the head.

One common deficiency that can cause head shaking is a lack of vitamin E. This vitamin plays an important role in maintaining healthy nerves and muscles. Without enough vitamin E, chickens can experience muscle tremors or twitching, which may cause them to shake their heads. Other possible nutritional deficiencies that can cause head shaking include a lack of calcium or phosphorus.

To prevent nutritional deficiencies and ensure your chicken’s health, make sure they are receiving a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Consult with a veterinarian or poultry nutritionist to develop a feeding plan that is appropriate for your chickens based on their age, breed, and production goals.

Here are some tips for providing your chickens with a balanced diet:

  1. Offer high-quality commercial feed specifically formulated for chickens.
  2. Provide fresh fruits and vegetables as treats.
  3. Include supplements such as oyster shells or grit to aid in digestion.
  4. Ensure access to clean water at all times.

By providing your chickens with proper nutrition and care, you can help prevent potential health issues such as head shaking and promote overall wellness in your flock.


Allergies may be a possible reason behind why your chicken is shaking its head. Just like humans, chickens can also suffer from allergies caused by various environmental factors such as pollen, dust, or mold. When a chicken is allergic to something, their body reacts by releasing histamines which cause symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and shaking their head.

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It is important to identify the allergen that is causing your chicken’s reaction and remove it from their environment. This can be done through simple measures such as cleaning their coop regularly and providing good ventilation. If the allergy persists, consulting with a veterinarian may be necessary to determine if medication or other treatments are needed.

As pet owners, it can be difficult to see our animals in discomfort. When we see them shake their heads or exhibit other symptoms of an allergy, it can evoke feelings of helplessness and concern for their well-being. By taking proactive steps to identify and address potential allergens in your chicken’s environment, you are helping to ensure they lead a happy and healthy life.

Emotion Description Example
Empathy Feeling the emotions of another person or animal Seeing my chicken shake its head makes me feel empathetic towards its discomfort
Concern Feeling worried or troubled about someone/something I am concerned about my chicken’s health when I see it exhibiting allergy symptoms
Relief Feeling glad or reassured about something I feel relieved after removing potential allergens from my chicken’s environment knowing they will suffer less discomfort now Disappointed Feeling let down or unsatisfied about something I was disappointed when I found out that the medication prescribed to my chicken was not effective in treating their allergies

Ear Infections

Ear infections are a common problem in chickens. They can occur due to various reasons, including bacterial or fungal infections, ear mites, or even injuries to the ear. The most apparent symptom of an ear infection is head shaking. If you notice your chicken shaking its head frequently, it may be time to take a closer look.

Another symptom of an ear infection in chickens is a foul odor coming from the affected ear. You may also see discharge or swelling around the ear area.

If left untreated, these infections can lead to more severe problems like hearing loss and balance issues. Therefore, it is essential to identify and treat ear infections early on. Treatment for ear infections usually involves antibiotics and topical ointments. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication that will help clear up the infection and provide relief for your chicken’s discomfort.

It’s crucial to keep your chicken’s coop clean and dry as well since damp conditions can encourage the growth of bacteria and fungi that cause these infections. By following proper hygiene practices and seeking medical attention promptly, you can help prevent and treat ear infections in your feathered friends.

Neurological Issues

After discussing ear infections as a possible cause for your chicken’s head shaking, it’s important to consider neurological issues as well. Neurological disorders can cause various symptoms in birds, including head shaking and tremors. These issues can be the result of several factors, such as genetics, diseases, or injuries.

One common neurological issue in chickens is Marek’s disease, which affects the nervous system and can cause head tremors and paralysis. Other potential causes include viral or bacterial infections, injury to the brain or spinal cord, or exposure to toxins. It’s crucial to have your chicken examined by a veterinarian with experience in avian medicine to determine the underlying cause of their symptoms.

Treatment for neurological issues in chickens depends on the specific diagnosis. Some conditions may require medication or surgery, while others may only need supportive care such as pain management and physical therapy. Early detection and treatment are essential for improving your chicken’s chances of recovery and preventing further complications down the line.

Behavioral Causes

Fear could be one of the behavioral causes for a chicken shaking its head; it may be a sign of stress and imbalance in the bird’s environment. Head-bobbing can also signify dominance within a flock, and is a form of communication. Attention-seeking and territoriality are also potential causes for head-shaking in chickens. Flock-mimicry may also be at play if one chicken starts shaking its head, and the rest of the flock follows suit. Diet, parasites, disease, injury, genetics, and environment can also be factors in a chicken shaking its head.


If you have noticed your chicken shaking its head, it could be a sign of various behavioral causes. One of the most common behavioral causes is fear. Chickens are prey animals and can easily get frightened by things around them such as loud noises, sudden movements or unfamiliar objects. Fear can cause a chicken to shake its head in an attempt to shake off the feeling of uneasiness.

Studies have shown that chickens can experience anxiety and stress just like humans. When a chicken experiences fear, it releases stress hormones such as cortisol which can affect their behavior. The shaking of the head is just one of the many ways that chickens express their discomfort or anxiety. Other signs that a chicken is experiencing fear include hiding, crouching down or puffing up their feathers.

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As a chicken owner, it’s important to identify the root cause of your chicken’s behavior so you can address it accordingly. If your chicken is shaking its head due to fear, try removing any potential sources of stress in their environment such as loud noises or unfamiliar objects. Creating a calm and comfortable living space for your chickens can help reduce their anxiety levels and improve their overall well-being.


Now that we’ve talked about how fear can cause a chicken to shake its head, let’s explore another possible factor – stress. Stress can be caused by a variety of things in a chicken’s environment, such as overcrowding, lack of food or water, and poor living conditions. When a chicken is stressed, it can display various behaviors including shaking its head. Just like with fear, stress causes the release of cortisol which can affect a chicken’s behavior and overall health. In addition to head shaking, other signs that your chicken is stressed may include decreased appetite, lethargy, and irritability.

It’s important to address the root cause of your chicken’s stress in order to improve their well-being. To reduce your chickens’ stress levels and prevent head shaking or other negative behaviors, make sure they have plenty of space to move around freely and access to fresh food and water at all times. Keeping their living space clean and comfortable is also essential. Regularly cleaning out their coop and providing them with fresh bedding will help maintain good hygiene levels. By creating a calm and healthy environment for your chickens, you can help alleviate any stress they may be experiencing.


Now that we’ve explored how fear and stress can cause a chicken to shake its head, let’s dive into another possible factor – imbalance. Imbalance in a chicken’s diet or environment can lead to various behavioral changes, including head shaking. If a chicken is not receiving proper nutrients in their diet, it may lead to an imbalance that affects their behavior. For example, if they are not getting enough calcium, they may develop weak bones which could cause them discomfort and result in head shaking.

Additionally, if the temperature or lighting in their living space is not balanced, it could also affect their behavior and lead to head shaking. To prevent these imbalances from occurring, it’s essential to provide your chickens with a well-balanced diet that includes all necessary nutrients. This can include feed specifically designed for chickens as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ensuring that the temperature and lighting in their living space is suitable for their needs is equally important. In conclusion, just like with fear and stress, imbalance can be a potential cause of head shaking in chickens. By providing your chickens with proper nutrition and maintaining a balanced environment for them to live in, you can help prevent any negative behaviors from arising.

Mating Rituals

As chickens are social animals, they have a complex mating ritual. This ritual involves the male chicken, or rooster, performing several actions to attract a female mate. One of these actions is known as the ‘courtship dance,’ which includes the rooster bobbing his head up and down while making clucking sounds. During this courtship dance, the rooster may also shake his head vigorously from side to side. This behavior is believed to be a form of communication to the female chicken, indicating that he is interested in mating.

Additionally, shaking their heads may help to dislodge any dirt or debris that could hinder their ability to see and communicate effectively. While this behavior may seem unusual to human observers, it is a natural and instinctive part of the chicken’s mating process. By understanding these behaviors and signals, chicken owners can better care for their birds and ensure a healthy breeding environment.



Molting is a natural process that occurs in chickens and other birds. It is the shedding of old feathers and the growth of new ones. Molting usually happens once a year, but it can happen more frequently depending on the breed, age, and living conditions of the chicken. During molting, a chicken may appear sick or uncomfortable due to the loss of feathers and changes in their appearance. However, this is a normal process, and there is no need for concern unless it persists for an extended period of time.

A healthy chicken will typically start growing new feathers within a few weeks to months after molting.

To help your chicken through the molting process, make sure they have access to plenty of clean water and high-quality food with added protein. Additionally, provide them with a comfortable environment that protects them from cold drafts or excessive heat. With proper care, your chickens will emerge from molting with beautiful new feathers and renewed vitality.

  • Feed your chickens high-quality food with added protein during molting.
  • Provide them with a comfortable environment that protects them from cold drafts or excessive heat.
  • Make sure they have access to plenty of clean water to stay hydrated during the molting process.
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Prevention And Treatment

As mentioned in the previous section, molting can cause chickens to shake their heads due to the discomfort caused by feather loss and regrowth. However, if your chicken continues to shake its head even after the molting phase, it may be a sign of an underlying issue. One common reason for persistent head shaking in chickens is ear mites. These tiny parasites live inside the ear canal and cause irritation, leading to head shaking and scratching. If left untreated, ear mites can cause serious damage to the ear and even lead to hearing loss. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian and treat your chicken’s ear mites as soon as possible.

Another potential reason for head shaking is respiratory infections. Chickens with respiratory infections may shake their heads in an attempt to clear their airways or relieve pressure on their sinuses. Other symptoms of respiratory infections include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and nasal discharge. If you suspect your chicken has a respiratory infection, seek veterinary care immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Remember that early detection and treatment are key when it comes to addressing health issues in chickens. Regular checkups with a poultry veterinarian can help ensure your flock stays healthy and happy. By providing appropriate care and attention, you can help prevent issues like persistent head shaking from affecting your chickens’ wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can Shaking Its Head Be A Sign Of Happiness Or Contentment In Chickens?

Shaking its head can indeed be a sign of happiness or contentment in chickens. When they’re comfortable and relaxed, they may shake their heads as a way of stretching their neck muscles or even just to show off their feathers. Of course, it’s always important to keep an eye on any unusual behaviors in your chickens, as shaking their heads excessively could indicate an underlying health issue. But in general, if your chicken seems happy and healthy otherwise, a little head-shaking is nothing to worry about!

Is There Any Correlation Between Certain Breeds Of Chickens And Head Shaking?

There may be a correlation between certain breeds of chickens and head shaking.Some studies have suggested that certain breeds, such as Leghorns, tend to shake their heads more frequently than other breeds.  However, this behavior can also be influenced by various environmental factors, such as stress or irritation from pests. Therefore, it is important to consider both genetics and environment when observing head shaking behavior in chickens.

Can Stress Or Anxiety Cause A Chicken To Shake Its Head?

Yes, stress or anxiety can cause a chicken to shake its head. In fact, studies have shown that chickens are highly sensitive to stressors such as overcrowding, sudden changes in their environment, and loud noises. When a chicken is stressed or anxious, it may exhibit behaviors such as head shaking, feather picking, and even aggressive behavior. It’s important for chicken owners to provide a comfortable and calm environment for their birds to prevent stress-related issues.

Are There Any Home Remedies Or Natural Treatments For Head Shaking In Chickens?

While consulting with a veterinarian is always recommended, there are some things you can try at home. One option is to add apple cider vinegar to your chicken’s water, as it may help balance their pH levels and improve overall health. Another possibility is to provide your chickens with a dust bath, which can help prevent mites and other parasites that could be causing the head shaking. Additionally, ensuring that your chickens have a clean and stress-free environment can also benefit their health and reduce the likelihood of head shaking.

How Can I Tell If My Chicken’s Head Shaking Is A Serious Issue That Requires Veterinary Attention?

If you notice your chicken shaking its head, it’s important to determine if it’s a serious issue that requires veterinary attention. Look for other symptoms such as discharge from the eyes or nose, lethargy, loss of appetite or weight, and abnormal behavior. If these symptoms are present, it’s best to seek veterinary care immediately as they could indicate a more serious underlying condition. However, if the head shaking is occasional and there are no other concerning symptoms, it may just be a normal behavior for your chicken.


In conclusion, head shaking in chickens can be indicative of various factors such as happiness, contentment, breed-specific traits or stress. It is important to observe the frequency and intensity of the head shaking and correlate it with other behaviors to determine if it is a serious issue that requires veterinary attention. Additionally, providing a stress-free environment for your chickens and incorporating natural remedies like apple cider vinegar in their diet may help alleviate any underlying causes of head shaking. Ultimately, consulting with experts and conducting further research can provide a better understanding of your chicken’s behavior and well-being.

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