Why a Hen Squats

When your flock is new and young, they’re hard to catch. Even friendly hens dart out of the way of hands reaching down to grab them. Then, something changes, and you’ll see this:

hen squatting


The hen lowers herself towards the ground, flattens her back, and tucks in her head. She squats.

You’ll usually first notice this when the days lengthen in the springtime. It coincides with the laying season. Squatting is what a hen does when a rooster approaches her to mate. Does that mean that she thinks you’re going to mate with her? Who knows what goes on inside of a chicken’s head? But I don’t think so. I think that an ovulating hen is hard-wired to flatten herself and be immobile when a bigger being is looming over her.

Many people like to interpret behavior as either dominant or submissive, but I think that view of the world is restrictive and that you miss what’s really going on. Submissive implies that the hen is passive. A hen has a choice. A hen can avoid a rooster (or me) by running off, and some hens have no problem telling a rooster what’s what. Fertile hens are receptive to mating, and squatting is a way to communicate that. She is an active participant in the action, not simply a meek female. (This said, if the enclosure is too small, and there are too few hens per rooster, the dynamic changes to the detriment of the hens. Most backyard set-ups aren’t suitable for healthy behavior between roos and hens.)

As with all behavior, it’s complicated. Mating can be rough on a hen. The rooster can rake her back with his talons and rip feathers off of her neck with his beak, and so the squat is also a protective position – you’ll see it when an aggressive hen attacks another. The weaker hen will turn her back to the bully and squat. This shields her head and belly, and changes her center of gravity so that she stays upright.

Although it’s generally true that hens that squat are the best layers, that’s not always the case. Misty lays daily and yet you won’t catch that lean, fast Andalusian, squatting – if I loom over her, she speeds off.

Beatrix, though, is a mild-mannered Ameracauna. When I need a hen for a school visit, there she is, looking pretty and calm,



and when I reach over, she squats.

Beatrix squatting


This is why Beatrix often gets to meet children, and Misty stays home.


  1. Thank you for this and love your explanation. Beatrix is very beautiful! Sending you some California sunshine.

  2. Henny Penny just started squatting again last week which was a good sign that she was coming back online. We’ve had fun trying to guess when she would lay her first pretty blue egg of the spring. Yesterday was the day. Thanks for the explanation!

  3. 2 of my hens a rhode i r and a magpie get under my feet and squat and will follow me and do again until i gently
    ruffle the feathers on their back then they will have a shake and go off happy, very funny to watch !! Can i ask is Jasper your welsummer laying yet ?? Wellyboot has not laid since last May when they had a scare, but she’s very healthy and happy do you think she will lay again ?? The other 5 are laying, they are all about 21-22 months old and have molted. Thanks :)

  4. I love when they squat..I just got through powdering everyone….mites or lice..who knows? It is so much easier than coming up from behind them and hopefully catching them!!!! BTW Terry..thanks for you help…I hung a curtain around my nesting box….and lo and behold..no more egg eating and lots of eggs in the box..HURRAY!!!!!

  5. Thankyou :) Maybe she will start laying when clocks alter, here’s hoping, really miss her egg !!

  6. Owlys markings on her neck look like a Welsummers is an Ameracana a mixed breed ??

    • Araucanas are the purebred, rumpless, blue egg layers. Ameracaunas (sometimes spelled Americaunas) were developed from the Araucanas and others to make a hen that lays a variety of colorful eggs. No two hens look alike.

  7. I have an Ameraucana (Gwen) that walks up to me and squat every day. I give her a pat on the back and she shakes it off. I also have those that run from me. Strange how some are trusting and some aren’t.

  8. I just have to say Rubys name and she squats, not sure of the meaning but its adorable

    • I have the same behavior. My ameraucana, Camy. When I say her name she squats. She is a very vocal girl. Talks, grumbles. When neighbors come over she has to run up and give them the once over, all the while talking. She is do funny. I guess it’s my guard chicjen since we don’t have a dog. She loves to be near me. But does not like to be held.

  9. Both are pretty. But I just love Beatrix face and coloring!

  10. Had a rooster for awhile. He was easy on his girls, except for the bantam: she learned to run fast for awhile. You were right when you told me a roo will keep the attention focused on him: every time I bring them veggie scraps, that selfish bird will cluck in a manner that translates to “Hey girls, look what the ROOSTER has for you”.

  11. Out of the five hens we have, only one exhibits this squatting behavior. She’s a buff orphington. She squats and I pet her back feathers, then walks away and shakes herself. Sometimes, I feel like she’s actually asking to be petted like this. The other four (r .i. red, another buff, red star, and white orphington) simply scoot away quickly when I extend my hand, no touching allowed. My brother has 4 R.I. reds, and he told me, they all do the squatting behavior. Funny how this behavior differed, even on the same breeds.

  12. Good morning all. In the first photo Owly could easily be mistaken for a Welsummer ! More snow overnight, looks like its just couple inches hopefully :)

    • Just been watching a mouse under the ramp finding what he can, tiny bright eyes. Also now looks like it might be raining !! hope not :)

  13. Please be careful ! Keep warm and safe. Thinking of you all :)