Understanding Chicken Behavior: The Submissive Squat or "Lordosis"

Recently you might have noticed that your pullets, who used to scatter and run when you approached them, now stop, drop and squat at your feet. But before you pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself that all these weeks of bringing them treats has finally paid off and now they are cool with you petting them, keep reading to find out what that 'squat' really means.

When they are just about mature enough to lay eggs, young hens will start to squat down when you go to pet them - or even just walk past them. They bend their legs and crouch, and sort of flatten their wings and backs. I refer to it as the "submissive squat", but the correct name is "lordosis". Here's why they do it:

They are Reaching Egg Laying Maturity

By squatting, a soon-to-be-laying pullet is signaling that she is ready to lay eggs, and you may very well see her first egg within days of when she first begins to squat. 


Squatting is also a sign of submission - a shift into the mating position for a rooster. This goes hand in hand with the laying thing above, because clearly there's no point in being mounted by a rooster if the hen isn't laying eggs yet.

Just because you don't have a rooster in your flock, this won't dissuade the hens from being submissive to a member of their 'human' family. In a way, they see YOU as the rooster.

You might also see younger hens or those lower in the pecking order squat for the older hens or those higher in the pecking order - again, a submissive stance.


A hen may also be squatting because a squatting hen is a protected hen. By squatting and freezing in place when a predator approaches, the hen is very low to the ground and her vulnerable underbelly is protected. Also, predators, especially aerial predators, hunt partially by looking for movement, so by squatting and not moving the hen has a better chance at going undetected.

Regardless of the reason for the squatting, the behavior does make your chickens far easier to catch if you need to check them over, give them medication or just give them a little lovin'. And if you want to go on believing that they are squatting so you will pet them, then go right ahead!  No harm in that.

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  1. So I have a question: will a rooster EVER squat like this? We have a pullet who I was sure was a rooster but today it squatted. I'm wondering if this is a sure sign that it is a hen.

  2. I have never seen a rooster squat, but I think if you had multiple roosters, younger or less dominant ones might squat for the head honcho.

  3. I like to say "good sit" and give them a pat. Hug, Di

  4. I'm so excited because one of my young silkies just started squatting about four days ago. This means her first egg will come very soon! I can't wait! She is about 6 months old. She also has been very vocal lately and displays nervous in the mornings. She will walk about her nesting area as if looking for a place to lay but no eggs just yet! Hopefully very soon! It's so eggciting!!♡♡

  5. My turkey's started to do this, but my jake did it too...and almost as soon as they started squatting eggs started to appear every other day or so! That's some handy information right there!

  6. It IS because they want to be petted....it IS....I won't believe otherwise...lol ;-) The wierd thing is that all of my Buff Orp's do the squat thing but the Isa Browns never do. I thought it was because the Buff's liked me more....now my bubble has burst!

  7. I raise Rhode Island Reds and have recently started placing one of the hens in a large dog carrier inside the coop in order to protect her from being brutally picked on by the other hens. When I call her, she runs towards me and "squats" for me to pick her up.

  8. Having kept chickens for years I knew what the squat was. But I didn't realise that it was a behaviour which signifies maturity and approaching laying age! Thinking about it, I haven't ever seen it in a younger chicken but I just never put it together!

    Also, for those whose bubble has just burst, let me do a little 'unbursting' to cheer you up :) Although its predominantly a submissive/sexual signal the 'squat' is always a stage I see on the road to taming a chicken. They start off running away, then letting you get closer, then letting you hand feed, then just about the stage they are letting you touch them they start to squat. I have always seen it as a move from thinking you might be a predator, to thinking of you as a harmless nuisance XD (that's how my hens seem to see most cockerels, anyway). Most of the time the squatting goes away as they get tamer, but I have noticed that my most cuddly hens have done a little 'squat and dance' (waggling, shuffling feet) when they see me approach, to get cuddles - adorable from a tiny little Belgian D'Anvers hen! SO all is not lost, chicken lovers! :D

  9. I was just wondering if any one knows the deal with my turkey... She was laying eggs every other day or every day, then all of a sudden she stopped laying! She is housed with the chickens, and they all act like she is the big mom. They scoot under her wing and lay their eggs with her. She refuses to get out of the nest unless I go in there and take her out and make her walk around. Any ideas?

    1. Maybe she's egg-bound. I've read that this can happen and they can die from it :-(