Why Do Chickens Peck Your Feet? (5 Clear Reasons)

Pecking is one of the most intriguing chicken behaviors. Sometimes, the chicken will peck gently at people’s feet. But there are also situations where they peck in an aggressive manner. Either way, it may leave you with many questions, top among them being on why chickens peck your feet?

Why do chickens peck your feet? Normally, the reason for chicken pecking at feet is curiosity. There are also scenarios where chicken peck at feet because they think that the feet could be food. Or where they reckon that pecking the feet will reveal some food that is underneath. The pecking behavior is commoner in younger chicken, and most outgrow it. There are, however, scenarios where chicken peck very aggressively, in a bid to assert domination.

Why do chickens peck your feet
Why do chickens peck your feet?

The exact manner in which the chickens do the pecking will tell you the probable reason behind it. If they do it gently, as if they are searching something, it is probably out of curiosity or in search of food. But if they do it in an aggressive manner, while puffing their chests and flapping their feathers, it is probably in a bid to assert curiosity.

Read on, to find the reasons why chicken peck your feet, whether it is normal and what you can do about it.


Do Chickens Peck Your Feet?

Yes, chicken have the ability to peck people’s feet. It is more or less normal chicken behavior, which is in fact to be expected. Rare is the chicken keeper who has never been pecked on the feet by the birds. One of the things to expect, once you start keeping chicken, is an occasional peck in the feet.

In most cases, the chickens peck your feet so gently that, other than irritating you, it does no more harm. But there have also been cases of chicken pecking so hard that they break skin and actually draw blood. Thankfully, the latter cases (of the chicken pecking so hard as to break the skin and draw blood) are rarer.


Why Do Chickens Peck Your Feet?

There are several possible reasons for chicken pecking your feet.

Firstly, the chicken may peck your feet as part of their perpetual search for food. Because of how their metabolism works, chicken are always eating and searching for food. Therefore if they come across your feet, and reckon that the feet could be food (or that there could be edibles lurking inside the feet), they will be inclined to peck!

Suppose you enter the chicken coop with bare feet or in open shoes. In that case, the chicken will almost certainly mistake your toes for giant worms and peck at them. You may see something similar, if you happen to be wearing red shoes.

The chicken will peck in a bid to see whether doing so can lead to a discovery of food. Even green shoes or those with floral designs may attract pecks. In all these cases, the chickens are really just in search of food.  

Secondly, the chicken may peck your feet out of curiosity. It is important to remember that the beak is one of the key organs through which chicken explore the world. Therefore the chicken’s pecking could be simply on account of curiosity.

Thirdly, chicken may peck your feet in a bid to raise their profile on the pecking order. The pecking order is the hierarchy which determines chickens’ social standing among their peers. Because you are someone they interact with regularly, the may (at some point) want to see if they can get above you on the pecking order. This is actually something that a typical rooster views as a viable endeavor!

There could also be cases where the chickens peck at you in a bid to grab your attention. Further, the chicken could be experiencing stress, which they relieve by pecking.


Why Do Chicken Peck Your Legs?

Sometimes, chicken may go beyond your feet, and try to peck higher up your legs. Thus, the question changes from why do chickens peck your feet to why they peck your legs?

The reasons for chicken pecking your legs are more or less similar to what we have said with regard to chicken pecking your feet. The most probable reason is that the chickens reckon that they may discover some food upon pecking your legs. But it could also be pure curiosity.

Keep it in mind that pecking is something that (by itself) seems to give the chicken some considerable pleasure. Just as exploration of new places gives us (humans) pleasure, so does pecking delight chickens.

If the chicken peck at your legs in an aggressive manner, while puffing their chests and flapping their feathers threateningly, it would probably be something to do with dominance assertion.

In this case, the chicken would be trying to show you that they are ‘above you’ in the pecking order. And that they want you to be submissive to them! This aspect of trying to assert dominance through pecking is commoner in roosters rather than hens.


Chicken Pecking Own Feet – What To Do?

Chicken may peck their own feet for several reasons. It could be due to pure curiosity, especially in very young hatchlings that are yet to differentiate themselves from their surroundings.

Alternatively, it could be part of the perpetual search for food. In the latter scenario, the young hatchlings may be yet to understand that the feet are parts of their bodies. It could also be due to stress.

The most important thing is to figure out exactly why the chickens are pecking their feet. If it is due to curiosity, the best you can do is treat the wounds – if they are particularly bad.

Perhaps provide the young chicks with better things they can peck on, to distract them from their feet. If it is due to stress, find ways of alleviating it – so that the chicken stop trying to relieve it by pecking their own feet.

Possible Reasons on why do chickens peck your feet
  1. Curiosity
  2. Search for food
  3. As an attempt to assert domination over you
  4. As an attempt to grab your attention
  5. Stress (which could be physiological [for instance extreme temperatures] or non-psychological [for instance, due to change in flock dynamics])
Why do chickens peck your feet
Why do chickens peck your feet?


Is Toe Pecking In Chickens Normal?

If it is in young chicken, there would be a degree of normality to it. Pecking is one of the chief ways in which very young chickens explore and discover the world around them.

But if it is in older chicken, and especially if they are pecking each other’s toes in a fierce manner, then it is not normal. It could be a sign of extreme stress, lack of certain nutrients or pecking order fights taken to unhealthy levels.


How To Care for Chickens Pecking Your Feet?

After getting the answer to why do chickens peck your feet, you may then want to know how to care for chickens pecking your feet. One strategy you can use is that of ensuring you don’t interact with them either barefoot or wearing open shoes. If you are wearing closed shoes, chances of chicken pecking your feet are lower.

Another strategy you can use is that of gently asserting your dominance over chickens who seem to have developed a habit of pecking at your feet aggressively every time. So you just gently grab the chicken, picking him up  in a gentle manner. Then carry him under your pit for several minutes, to show him who the boss is.

There are also those who recommend gently pushing the chicken who peck at you (using your feet). Ideally while doing this, you should also be making some grunting noises. This tough love approach works in many cases.


How To Stop Chickens Pecking Me?

To put it differently how do you stop chickens from pecking you (in practical terms)?

Firstly, you need to figure out why do chickens peck your feet (if it is the feet they peck). Then you can come up with strategies to stop them from pecking you based on the reasons why they do so. For instance, if they usually peck you when you are wearing open shoes or when barefoot, ensure that you are wearing closed shoes every time you approach them.

Another way to stop chicken from pecking you is by ensuring that they always have enough food. Give them adequate food, in the realest sense of the term.

At the point where the chickens happen to be pecking you, you can push them away from your feet gently, while making a grunting sound. And if the pecks seem to be of the aggressive domination assertion type, you can gently take the offending chicken off the ground, and carry him under your arms for several minutes.


Chicken Pecking Shoes, What To Do?

You may first need to find out why do chickens peck your feet when you are wearing specific shoes, and not others. It could be due to the color of the shoes or the patterns on the shoes. It could also be due to the shoes’ design. For instance, if the shoes have holes on them, the chicken may peck thinking that doing so would spur worms that are hiding inside to come out!

Ultimately, you may discover that the chicken peck at your feet when you are wearing specific shoes. In that case, you may need to avoid wearing those shoes while interacting with the chicken.

But if the chicken peck on your feet regardless of the shoes you wear, it may be a more complex situation. In that case, you can consider to be gently pushing them – using the feet – every time they start to peck.

Eventually, they will learn that they get pushed away when they peck. Therefore they will desist from doing it. (Yes, chicken are capable of that type of learning, if you do it with consistency).


Rooster Pecking Feet, How To Stop?

The right method to use depends on whether the rooster is pecking at your feet in search of food, out of curiosity or as a way to assert dominance.

If the rooster is pecking your feet out of curiosity or in search of food, you really only need to shoo him away. Thus, using your foot, you push him away, and chances are that he will find something else to do.

If the rooster is pecking your feet as a way to assert dominance, you need to show him that, in fact, you are the ‘boss’. The most effective way to do this is by picking him up gently, getting him under your arm and carrying him there (the way you would carry a ball) for several minutes.

This way, the rooster learns that you are truly above him in the pecking order. And it also shows him that you are not that much of a threat (though you are above him in the pecking order).


Why Does My Chicken Peck My Clothes?

Closely related to why do chickens peck your feet is another question on why chicken peck on clothes. In most cases, when chickens peck on clothes, it is out of pure curiosity.

For instance, people who wear red clothes around chicken may get pecked. But there are also cases where a chicken may try to fly at you and peck your clothes (aggressively) in a bid to establish domination over you. This would be as part of chickens’ innate pecking order politics.


Final Verdict – Why Do Chickens Peck Your Feet

Why do chickens peck your feet? Chickens peck your feet either because they think that doing so may lead them to discover food or because of pure curiosity. There are also cases where chicken may peck your feet as an act of aggression to try to establish dominance over you on the pecking order.

Why do chickens peck your feet
Why do chickens peck your feet?

Chicken pecking your feet is quite normal behavior. But if it gets out of hand, there are strategies you can use to stop the chicken from pecking your feet.

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