- Pets and Animals
Chickens as House Pets
Chickens make really great pets (What other animal makes you breakfast in the morning? lol) and are enjoying a huge surge in popularity as more and more people are getting tired of buying lackluster tasting eggs from chickens in factory farms.
Due to their sudden popularity it seems inevitable that people would start realizing that chickens aren't as stupid as they're portrayed and that they actually have their own individual personalities. This has led to something that many people consider crazy, chickens as house pets.
It may start with a sick chicken that needs to be separated from the flock for special care, or raising chicks inside and then being reluctant to lose closeness with them by moving them outside, or even just an opinionated hen that tries to come inside whenever she can, but the move to having a house chicken starts slowly.
After having a chicken or two inside the house for whatever reason, the little cluckers seem to start fitting in, and it seems odd to keep them penned up the whole time, so they may get let out of their cage for just a little while. This leads to sitting on the couch with a chicken in your lap watching TV. Sounds silly, right? It always sounds silly until it happens to you.
Chickens Are For Everyone
House Chickens? How Does That Work?
Keeping a House Chicken
Keeping a house chicken is just like keeping any other house pet. They need food and water, a cage or home to sleep in, and an appropriate way to go to the bathroom. They need security and and family and love.
Just as with any pet, understanding their nature is important to making their environment a wholesome one that will ensure their health and wellbeing.
A Pair of House Chickens
Chickens are Gregarious
Chickens are Social Creatures
Before getting a pet chicken it is important to realize that chickens are inherently social animals. They need a flock, just like a dog needs a pack. They will not be happy if they are left alone for long periods of time and they may get stressed and develop bad habits.
If you plan on getting a pet chicken you need to plan on spending most of your time together or get one or two more chickens to keep them company. While they have dog sitters and doggie daycares, they do not have anything like that for chickens so it's best to be someone who works at home. If you don't, your chicken will need a friend.
My pet chickens usually accept my other pets are part of their flock, so if they bond well with your cats or dogs, that can be another way to give them company.
Cuddling Pet Chicken
Chickens Like to Be with You
Part of what makes chickens good housepets is that chickens are social animals and enjoy spending time with everyone. Having chickens out in the coop doesn't allow you to really become part of the flock, but living in the same place with them, hanging out with them while you watch TV, and just generally spending time one on one really ends up giving you a greater appreciation for chickens and a greater understanding as well.
The Silkie in the pictures below was my desk chicken. Because she was sick when I got her, Sweet Tweets had to be nursed back to health and she was kept on my desk while I was caring for her. Even after she got better, she thought that was her space. She hung out on my desk while I worked, sharing space with cats, as they all passed by looking to get pet and trying to snag treats from my plate while I ate lunch. There was no place she'd rather be than on my desk.
My Desk Friend
Chickens Want to Be Involved
House Chicken Sleeping with Cat
Read Travels with My Chicken
Chicken Getting His Feathers Combed
Chickens and Kids
Raising Your Kids with Pets
Like any other pet, chickens can be great for kids. But just like any other pet, a lot depends on your pet's personality and how strict you are about how your child treats the pet.
Chickens are often very friendly and loving. They tend to be sturdy and will defend themselves if pushed too far. Be wary of sharp beaks though. Bright eyes and food on their cheeks can be tempting, so it's important to supervise their interactions. Also, wings and legs are easy to snap, so teach your children to handle the birds carefully and not pick them up.
A Girl and Her Chicken - True Love
Kids and Chickens Can Be a Perfect Match
Henrietta the Guard Chicken
Chickens and Other Pets
Chickens and Other Pets
If you have other pets, you need to consider whether it is safe to have a house chicken. Chickens are attacked by dogs and other pets every day, and if you don't want that to happen to your chicken you need to plan very carefully.
It is possible to have your pets coexist, I have cats and dogs and sometimes rabbits and other animals and not one of them would attack my pet chicken, but that isn't always the case with every pet out there. The pet's personality needs to be considered, as well as how you go about introducing them. If the other pet regularly hunts and kills animals, or is even a breed that has been raised to do that, you will probably not be able to safely have them together. Bird dogs or herding dogs can be especially problematic.
If you are going to attempt introducing your pets, always watch them carefully and introduce them through the bars of a cage in case anything goes wrong. You should always have the chicken in a cage and the dog on a leash in any case, this will help keep you in command of the situation. The dog or cat will likely be fascinated and try to smell the chicken. The chicken might be frightened. Wait until they settle and are not overly excited at the sight of each other before you start letting them loose together.
Even once it looks safe to have your pets together, never leave them alone. If the chicken got frightened and flapped his wings he might trigger the hunting instinct in the other animal since it's sort of acting like prey.
House Cat and House Chicken
A Safe Shelter for the Chicken
Even if your pet chicken is going to be out in the house most or all of the time, they need a place that is uniquely theirs. This should be a spacious cage so there's room for them to easily move around in case they need to be left inside there for any length of time. It's nice as well for the chicken to be able to be in a place without their diaper sometimes, and if the hen lays eggs she'll want a safe place to do it in. Many chickens also prefer to sleep in their cages since it makes them feel secure.
The cage should be lined with wood shavings (NOT cedar!), newspaper, old towels, or even cloth diapers. You can easily toss the diapers or towels in the washer every couple of days depending on how long your chicken spends in his or her cage. The wood shavings tend to get all over the place, if the chicken flaps its wings, so I prefer to use old cloth diapers, switching them out every so often, then when I have a pile I toss them all in the washer. I actually have a section on my desk lined though, not a cage, since Sweet Tweets refuses to sleep in her cage and instead likes to sleep next to me while I work on the computer at night.
In their cage, the chickens should have their food and water, and a roost. The bantam Cochin below does not have a roost in her cage since she refused to use it, but she did like to turn over and sit on the cardboard box that I added so she had a place to lay her eggs.
Don't forget, if the chicken is a hen and will be laying eggs, she'll need a box to do that in. I like cardboard boxes since I can easily switch them out as they get dirty, but anything works, they'll just need to be easily cleaned and big enough for the hen.
Snowball in Her Cage
Get a Cage for Your Pet
This is a nice large and roomy cage that, though it is designed for cats, would work wonderful for a pet chicken or two when you need to have them penned.
The most common question that comes up when I mention house chickens is why, but the second most common question is what about the poo?
What about the poo when you have a parakeet or parrot? They are pet birds as well and the results are similar.
Anyone who has ever been around chickens knows that chicken poop is a common hazard when handling chickens outside. You're bound to get hit with it sooner or later, or knowing chickens, sooner and later. This can be a problem inside a house since no one wants chicken poop everywhere. There are a few ways people deal with this when they have house chickens.
One way is to just keep the chicken in a playpen when not in its cage. Some people use old baby playpens, but others get puppy playpens. Setting these playpens up in the family room allows interaction with the chicken, but makes it hard for the chicken to really be part of the family and get cuddles plus most chickens will start jumping out eventually.
Another way is to just let the chickens wander around and not worry about it. This really doesn't work if you have carpet, but if you have hardwood floors or linoleum a paper towel will quickly wipe anything up and it's not hard to reach down and wipe up the occasional poo. Putting a towel over where the chicken sits most of the time catches most of the poo and a paper towel takes care of any other messes.
I've heard of people house-training chickens. Haven't tried it myself, but it's worth a shot if you're interested in going this way. Look on YouTube for some of the clicker training videos to get a start.
The most common way people deal with poo-filled chickens is by using chicken diapers. That's right, there are little diapers for chickens. They aren't available from many places yet, it's not like there's a ton of people needing diapers for chickens, but you can often buy them from other chicken people or make them yourself.
Basically chicken diapers are little cloth bottoms you put on the chicken with a little absorbent pad in the bottom that you change out as the chicken goes on it. Chicken diapers don't sit right up against their feathers, it projects a little so their feathers stay clean. The chicken wears the diaper while loose in the house and gets it removed while in it's cage.
Really the poo problem isn't a big deal after a while for most chicken fans. Just another chore to keep up on like a cat litter box. In fact, I think it's a heck of a lot less irritating to have to deal with than cat poo or picking up dog doo in the yard.
How to Make Chicken Diapers
Buying Chicken Diapers
Though they are still hard to find, if you don't want to make chicken diapers there are people that make them and sell them. Here's a few that I've found and if you know of any not listed here, let me know in the comments so I can add them.
Chicken Diaper Sources
- Chicken Diapers.com
A source for chicken diapers
- My Pet Chicken site
A commercial site for chicken diapers
- Avian Fashions Flightsuits
This site is primarily about the "normal" house birds, parrots and such, but they do make flightsuits or diapers for chickens as well.
- Backyard Chickens-Forum
A diagram of a chicken diaper, plus details on how to make it and discussion of chickens wearing diapers.
- Birdie Diapers by Jungle Wear
Another site that's mainly for the "normal" housepets, parrots, parakeets, cockatiels, and such, that is selling chicken and duck diapers as well.
- Handcrafted Chicken Diapers and Chicken Saddles
This lady makes chicken, duck, and goose diapers, as well as chicken saddles (used to prevent rooster damage to hens). Very reasonable prices and a quick turn around.
Playing with Your Chicken
Though many chickens are like my Sweet Tweets and are very laid-back and lazy, some chickens can get bored as house pets, especially if they're used to running around loose outside and for some reason can't any longer. That's where toys and games come in. Just like every other pet, you need to keep your chicken entertained.
There are lots of things you can do to keep them occupied, think of some of the games you play with your cat for ideas. Keep in mind that chickens really enjoy finding food, and toys or games that involve food are often favorites.
Pet Silkie Comes When She's Called
A Rooster Fetching a Rubberband
Rooster Dances at His Toys
Ideas for Pet Chicken Toys and Fun
- Ideas for Toys & Activities to Entertain Your Pet Chicken
When you put chickens in a small pen or coop they get bored and will end up hurting one another. Here are easy and fun ideas for chicken toys that you can make using items around your house.
It's always nice if possible to allow your chicken some outdoor playtime occasionally. They enjoy being outdoors and eating grass but you have to be very careful because everything likes to eat chicken. Neighborhood dogs may be as friendly as anything, but a yummy, squawking chicken may be too much of a temptation. Also, birds of prey have been known to swoop down out of the sky and take off with a chicken in just moments. Each time your chicken is outside the danger level increases, but a cautious owner should be able to keep their chicken fairly safe. Just always remember, everything wants to eat your pet, so you need to watch out for any danger all the time.
Chickens can learn to walk around with a leash attached, and this is handy if you want to take the chicken to the park or on a road trip where you can walk him a bit while on rest stops. The chicken needs to learn to wear a halter, or a diaper with a leash attachment, then they can be trained just like rabbits or cats. They aren't really walked per se, but rather walk around with the owner following.
Another option for allowing your chicken some outside time, is to use a cage or a playpen. The bantams and bunnies in the picture below are enjoying their time outside in a playpen set up in the shade. Some chickens will jump or fly out of the playpens, so often a cage set on the grass works the best. It also keeps the chickens a little safer.
Just treat the chickens as living breathing creatures, as say, a baby. In a pen they won't be able to move out of the sun if it gets too hot, and they need to be supervised, plus have water and food if they need it. Chickens can get overheated very quickly, so make sure they have some sort of shade over part of the playpen that they can retreat to.
Chickens and Rabbits Enjoying a Bit of Sun
Chicken Need to Dustbathe
Chickens don't always realize they should dustbath in dirt, so outside the house or inside, it's not uncommon to see chickens thinking they can dustbath in random things. House chickens should be taken outside once a week to roll in some clean dirt, or have a small box set up for them to roll around in.
A small storage bin with a hole cut in the side makes a great place to put some dust and DE so that your pet chicken can roll around inside. Or an unused enclosed cat litterbox.
Chicken on a Leash
Pet Rooster or Hen
Pet Roosters or Pet Hens
One question often asked is whether the house chicken should be a hen or a rooster? As long as crowing isn't going to be a problem with your neighbors, hens or roosters, work equally well as house chickens.
Hens lay eggs, some breeds more than others, but roosters often become very sweet. For some reason it turns out that house chickens are often roosters. I'm not sure why this is the case, maybe it's because house chickens are often chickens that can't get along with the rest of the flock, or perhaps because so many other people don't want roosters and are always looking to get rid of them, but for whatever the reason, roos seem far more common than hens as house pets.
Chickens Can Be Noisy
Chickens, though they're often cast as silent (except for the rooster), can be very noisy. Depending on the bird, they can be very noisy.
Some hens talk a lot. They walk around and tell everyone "Hey, look at this" "what's that?" "Is this edible?" They chatter incessantly about nothing, I sort of wonder if they're talking to themselves. Other hens will make small noises occasionally, but scream when they lay an egg..."Everyone! Come look and see! I laid an egg!!!" ...then the rooster (if there is one) has to come over and say things like "Wow! My hen laid an egg!" "Everyone, she laid an egg!" until finally the ruckus dies down, then starts again the next morning when the hen again screams "I laid an egg!"
Then there are others that are basically silent. You never know where they are or what they're doing because they sneak in to lay their eggs and are so quiet you forget about them. One of my white cochin hens was like that. Other than a few curious chirps or a content sort-of coo, she never spoke.
How much noise a hen makes will vary quite a bit, depending on breed, personality, and time of day, so it's difficult to predict. Some hens will even start crowing. That's right, there are even crowing hens.
Speaking of crowing, we can't leave out roosters on the noise factory. If you have a rooster, almost certainly he will crow. Not every single rooster crows, but the exceptions are few and far between. Crows aren't always the same cock-a-doodle-do though. Big chickens often have deep, booming crows, sort of a bass note often. Bantam roosters make a squeakier noise, occasionally like a old-door hinge noise.
Most roosters crow often too. They usually start around 3am and keep going all day, especially if they can hear other chickens. This means they aren't apartment pets. They may not even be house pets if you have close neighbors or thin walls. You can deal with a little of the noise by having a very dark cage they go into at night, modifying a well-ventilated wooden box works well. The wood helps absorb any sound they make at night and the darkness makes them think it's still nighttime and not time to crow. As soon as they're released expect a cacophony though.
All this means that you need to carefully consider even more which chicken to get. Bantams (small or mini chickens) cannot be sexed when little, except if you get them from My Pet Chicken.com, so if you get bantam chicks you have a 50/50 chance of getting a rooster. Standard size chickens can be sexed and usually are if they're at a feed store, so you can be sure you're only getting pullets (young females), though even that is not 100% accurate. Most people therefore get adult, or near adult chickens so they don't risk offending their neighbors.
Though even as noisy as chickens are, they pale in comparison to many other commonly kept pet birds. A screaming parrot is ear shattering while a female chicken is more cute sounding than anything.
Small Frizzled Serama Rooster Crowing
Learn More about Bantam Chickens Book
Chicken Breeds for House Pets
Choosing a Breed
Some breeds of chickens make better house pets than others. Personality of the chicken itself matters, but some breeds tend to be calmer and smaller than others, making for better odds.
A popular breed of chicken for a house pet is the bantam (or mini) Cochin. There are large Cochins, called standards, but since they are so large, they are often difficult to house inside, so aren't as common. Cochins are shaped like balls, with feathers on their feet, and are very personable and friendly. Since they have feathered-feet they can have a problem with poo sticking to the feathers on their feet, so need to be in a clean cage or wearing the diaper a lot of the time or else they may track poo all over. The chicken below is a bantam Cochin.
For more information about Cochins check out my article about them at Cochin Chicken Breed.
Red Bantam Cochin Hen
Bantam Frizzled Cochin
Another type of chicken that makes a good house chicken is the bantam (or mini) frizzle-feathered Cochin like the one shown below.
Frizzles are chickens with feathers that are sort of twisted and that give them a fussy or frizzy look. There are actually several breeds of chickens that have the frizzled feather gene introduced, Cochins just seem the most common. They are all very cute, but often have easily broken feathers so have to be handled a bit more carefully.
Bantam Frizzle Cochin Hen
See Some Extraordinary Chickens
This coffee table book features some of the most gorgeous chicken breeds and feather patterns.
Serama chickens are the smallest chickens in the world. The size of the chicken varies since there are multiple sizes represented by letters of the alphabet, but even the largest Serama are tiny.
These lovely little birds are delicate and sweet. They can be a bit timid at first but grow to be very people friendly.
Sweet Serama Love
Naked Necks or Turkens
Not quite as common as a house chicken, but growing in popularity, Naked Necks or Turkens are so named because they are chickens with feather-less necks, so they look a bit like turkeys. Naked Necks are a bit flighty but can be very friendly.
They have a well-known offshoot called a Showgirl chicken that comes from breeding Turkens to Silkies to achieve a bare neck with a furry hat and coat. Like Turkens and Silkies, Showgirls are friendly and make good pets.
Turken in the Yard
At first sight, Polish Crested chickens are immediately attention getting. The little bulb of feathers on their heads makes them look funny, sweet, and endearing. They make great pets but their crests often make it hard for them to see, which makes them either a little dumb-seeming, or easily frightened and skittish. Trimming the crest just a bit or putting it in a soft ponytail-holder will help the PC a lot. They come in standard and bantam versions, though there isn't always a lot of size difference between them.
White Crested Black Polish
Probably one of the more popular chickens for house pets, Silkies are often called the furry chicken, the black chicken (due to their skin color), or bedroom slippers with feet :D
They are one of the calmest of chicken breeds, and are usually very docile which makes them a great pet, inside or outside of the house. For more information about Silkies, check out my page about them at Silkie Chickens. I know you'll be surprised. Silkies' small size and calm temperament make Silkies probably the very best chicken for a house pet.
Pet Silkie Hen
Health and Chickens
Danger of Disease
Every once in a while I get an odd response to saying I have house chickens, or even outside chickens, "Aren't you afraid of bird flu? If you have chickens you'll be making it easier for us all to get bird flu." I have a very difficult time not laughing at this. Whatever form it takes..."disease" "salmonella" "chickens will make you sick"...it is a sign of ignorance and brainwashing. Having chickens does not automatically make you sick and they aren't some dangerous thing that needs to get eradicated.
Most of the bird flu hysteria is just that, hysteria. Chickens that rarely leave their homes, are often kept away from the outside world, and have strict regulations on their movements are not the vector that would be transferring bird flu. Wild birds, those ones that know no statelines, travel far distances on migration, and are everywhere around us, on picnic tables, bushes around our homes, even around hospital courtyards, those are the way you would get bird flu, not chickens.
Salmonella is a problem with lots of pets, not just chickens. We can get salmonella from our other pets, other people, even standing water. Salmonella is all around us and having chickens barely raises the risk of getting it and even if you do, most salmonella varieties aren't even that bad. The majority of varieties will give you a bit of a stomachache, if that, and in the mean time, will help teach your antibodies to react (like a vaccine) against the hazardous types like Salmonella enteritis.
Chickens, or any birds for that matter, are less likely to be a danger to your health than most of the other animals we take for granted, or as any mother knows, a kindergarten class. Germs are all around us, all the time, many are species specific though, so we're less likely to get sick from chickens since they are birds. Other mammals are more likely to have germs that will affect us, and other humans are far more likely to carry germs that are dangerous.
Clean coops and healthy chickens are less likely to have germs and diseases, so unlike factory farms, where chickens have to get medications and antibiotics to be able to survive, most pet chickens rarely need medication and pet chicken owners are far more likely to use natural, non-dangerous remedies to control any problems if there are any.
Chickens are very unlikely to make you sick. Do you think of sickly kids when you think of kids raised on farms? Having chickens makes you healthier. Their eggs are often full of vitamins, way more than in store-bought, mass-produced eggs. The Omega-3s are higher which usually leads to a better immune system and more resistance to disease. Kids raised around any pets are far more likely to be healthy and have strong immune systems than kids raised in sterile environments.
Polish Hen Running Around a Living Room
Silkie Inside the House
The Fairest Fowl
Learn more about different chicken breeds and chicken shows by checking out this book.
Crazy for Chickens
Chicken on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
One of the most popular Disney kids shows had an unexpected guest in a couple episodes, one of the characters has a pet chicken named Dudley. Dudley is an adorable little white Silkie, and though he doesn't do much he sure is cute in his costume. In this episode, the bellhop of the hotel and Dudley's owner, Esteban, is trying out for a talent show with Dudley, who is singularly unimpressed.
The Suite Life with Esteban and Dudley
This Woman Loves Her Pet Silkie
The beginning of the video below is good, but the great part starts at about 5:00. It then features someone who keeps a rooster as a pet and treats it like a baby.
The Natural History of the Chicken
This PBS documentary is not actually about the natural history of the chicken. It is about the stories of people and their interaction with chickens. Some stories are sweet, some are sad, there's even one that will make you bawl your eyes out. But all show the chicken is not just a stereotype, an egg-laying machine, eventually destined for the butcher's block. Contains the pet rooster story shown above, as well as many others.
Get this wonderful documentary for yourself! Or I guess for your bird-loving friends, though it would be hard to not keep it for yourself :-)
These People Really Love Their Chickens
- Camilla the Chicken
John Cleese has a pet chicken named Camilla. He posted a video of her and him on his blog.
- Chickens in John Cleese's House
Another video of John Cleese's chicken Camilla and her buddy Rocky.
- How Many Chickens Do You Have in the House?
People chime in when asked how many chickens are living inside their house.
- House Chickens Yahoo Group
If you have house chickens or are thinking about getting one, check out this group for more information on the joys of chickens in the house.
Chickens Wearing Clothes
A House Chicken Eating Raviolis
Not All Chickens Make Good Pets
Not Always a Success
The Golden Campine hen in the picture below lived in the house for quite a while. She shared a cage with our house rabbit and laid a fresh egg for us every morning. We got a new outdoor home for her after a while though, she was far too active and flighty to feel comfortable in an indoor home.
Some chickens just don't make good indoor pets and it's best to find them another home where they'll be more comfortable instead of trying to force them into something that isn't right for them.
Chickens that are not human-oriented or are easily frightened should not be house pets. Chickens that are bred for meat production should also be considered carefully. They often grow too fast to survive for long and no one wants to lose their pet after just a few months to a heart attack or broken leg.
Choose chickens that are friendly and outgoing, ones that want to be with you all the time. Choose breeds that tend to have traits that make for good house pets.
Remember, not every chicken is a house chicken.
Not a Good House Pet
Mr. Clucky the Miami Rooster
Mr. Clucky the Miami Rooster
Mr. Clucky is a Miami icon.
He lives in his owner's apartment with a hen, and spends his days riding around on the handlebars of his owner's bicycle through the streets of Miami. He even served as the Grand Marshall of Miami Beach's Annual King Mango Strut Parade and was voted Top Activist in 2008.
Now, he may be forced out of his home. The city doesn't not allow livestock, it only allows people to have pets. The court ruled against Mr Clucky, but it is thought that perhaps they might get an exemption since Mr Clucky is truly a Miami icon. To learn more about Mr Clucky, go to his website at Mr Clucky.com
Ducks as House Pets
Not only do chickens make good house pets, but ducks do as well.
The big duckling in the picture below didn't live permanently in our little place, but she was hurt in a winter storm and needed to come inside to recuperate. Ducko had a special pad on the bed so she could hang out and watch TV with us. The other ducklings were inside until they got large enough to live outside.
Ducks readily imprint or think humans are their mothers, so they make great pets.
For more information on ducks as house pets check out this great article by XpectMorebizsolutions It's about their pet duck A Duck for a Pet, In the House, Wears Diapers...YES!
Get a Book About Chickens and Ducks As Pets
Silkie Chicken As a Pet
© 2009 Alisha Vargas