During a recent trip to a family friend’s home, I was surprised to find a chicken coop in the backyard. I was more surprised to see the young children pick up and carry the chickens as if they were cats.
I had always thought chickens were messy to care for and could harm people by pecking them, but seeing my friend’s happy hens got me thinking; Do chickens make good pets?
The hens and roosters seemed unfazed by the human interaction, and they were happy to leave the coop to venture into the open yard. The mess was not as bad as I initially thought, so I wondered what other benefits a pet chicken might offer.
Do Chickens Make Good Pets?
Chickens are social creatures, so having more than one can provide company for them to entertain themselves. All of them seemed to have their own personality, and were varied in color and sizes. A few of them were even trained to come when called, proving that chickens can be trained to perform a variety of actions on command.
They do not mind being picked up, stroked, cuddled or hugged, but they can peck at human eyes. For this reason, it’s best to keep the bird’s line of sight away from your own when in close proximity.
Here’s a quick video that provides a good overview:
Keep Cats and Dogs Away
Chickens are best kept without other animals; ducks are an exception — they seem to calm the chickens in some cases. The family cat was not a welcomed visitor in the backyard, and the birds made sure their opposition was shown! Dogs will usually consider chickens to be prey. If you have other pets, keep this in mind when deciding whether to coop the chickens or allow them to roam.
Food, Living Arrangements
Upkeep seems to be minimal. The chickens can be fed table scraps or feed, but they require clean water, and their coop must be cleaned once per week.
The bedding is usually changed out once a month. Keeping up with clean water and a cleaning routine can help minimize sickness. Unfortunately, if one chicken becomes sick it can easily spread to the others.
Roosters make the iconic Cockadoodledoo! crow, and for this reason they are prohibited in many areas. Before purchasing or adopting a chicken, check your local ordinances and with your homeowners’ association if applicable.
Adopt; Don’t Buy
Once you are cleared and ready to obtain the chickens, the Humane Society suggests adopting where possible. Many hens and roosters end up in shelters, and often chicks can die when being transported through regular shipping channels. Check the shelters in your area first for any available chickens.
Discuss the decision of raising chickens and who will care for them with your family before picking out your new pets. Raising them can be a fun and rewarding experience; not only will you get new pets to spoil but you will also have a steady supply of eggs.
- Human Society: Adopting and caring for backyard chickens
- My Pet Chicken: About raising chickens in your backyard
- Keeping Pet Chickens: A guide to keeping chickens at home