Chickens as Pets: Guidelines and Breeds

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. February 9, 2017
Chickens as Pets: Guidelines and Breeds

See files for Hens and roosters

Have you ever considered keeping chickens as pets? Some people do - they are peculiar pets, but they are oddly adorable.

To keep a chicken as a pet, you must have available outdoors space and a shelter where it can be safe and sleep. You should never keep hens or roosters in a cage, but you also shouldn't let them wander inside your home unless you want to be cleaning after them all day long. If you let a chicken loose indoors, you'll find its dropping on the floor, the chairs, and the most unexpected appliances.

If you can fulfill their requirements, though, there are many beautiful and even affectionate chicken breeds you could keep as pets. Raising hens and roosters means developing a give-and-take relationship with them: you feed them grain, and they feed you their eggs.

All in all, with care and knowledge you can definitely keep chickens as pets. In this AnimalWised article, we'll provide some guidelines to follow.

You may also be interested in: The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Beginners

When should you adopt a pet chicken?

If you want a pet chicken, you could try having it imprint on you. "Filial imprinting" is a typical behavior of some birds, which recognize a moving stimuli during the first hours of their lives and identify it as their mother, therefore following it around and modeling their behavior after it.

If you can adopt a fertilized egg, incubate it and raise it from birth, the newborn chick will consider you its mother. This will ease its training enormously, but feeding and keeping such a young chick safe is difficult and requires effort and responsibility.

However, we recommend adopting chicks once the mother has decided they can be on their own; some hens stay with their young for 3 weeks, others for a month more. You will notice when the time is right because the hen will stop clucking and may even start pecking the chicks so that they leave her be.

Chickens are often given up for adoption once hatched; this is also good to know the sex of your chicken. In general, hens are tamer and easier to keep as pets than roosters. The chick you adopt as a pet will not recognize you as its mother, but it will be mature enough to be separated from the flock. However, training it will be more difficult and it may always see you as a predator.

Chickens as Pets: Guidelines and Breeds - When should you adopt a pet chicken?

What do you need to have a chicken as a pet?

It is imperative that you keep your pet chicken outdoors, in a pen. It should live on soil or natural land, as it will absorb the plentiful droppings and let them become harmless fertilizer. Cleaning after chickens can otherwise be a never-ending job!

Chickens need shelters; in the reserved space for your yardbird you'll have to place a protected and comfortable coop to protect it from the environment. Inside, it must have a wooden bar for the chicken to sleep. If you have a hen, you'll have to get her a drawer to lay her eggs in and incubate them.

If you have other pets you must be especially careful, especially with cats. The average lifespan of domestic chickens ranges from 5 to 10 years, depending on the breed.

Chickens as Pets: Guidelines and Breeds - What do you need to have a chicken as a pet?

Chicken breeds for beginners

  • Australorp: This is a friendly, black breed that can come in different sizes. Average weekly lay: 5 eggs.
  • Brahma: This family-friendly chicken breed varies in color and sizes. Average weekly lay: 3 eggs.
  • Buff Orpington: This is a very affectionate, large, rose gold chicken breed that won't mind being picked up. Average weekly lay: 3 eggs.
  • Cochin: This is an adaptable chicken breed notable for its extremely fluffy light brown or dark gray feathers. They can be foster mothers for other species. Average weekly lay: 2 eggs.
  • Dominique: This is a rare breed, but also an ancient one. They are caring pets, and they have beautiful black and white feathers. Average weekly lay: 3 eggs.
  • Faverolle: This docile chicken breed has salmon-colored feathers and a particularly fluffy face. Average weekly lay: 4 eggs.
  • Plymouth Rock: This is a hardy, medium-sized, black and white chicken breed that will get along with the whole family, especially if you have children. Average weekly lay: 5 eggs.
  • Polish: This quirky-looking chicken breed is notable for its black and white plumage and bouffant hairstyle. Average weekly lay: 2 eggs.
  • Rhode Island: This chicken breed is the state bird of RI. It is a great choice for a pet chicken if you live in cold weather, and they are gentle and easy-going. Average weekly lay: 5 eggs.
  • Silkie Bantam: This is one of the most popular breeds because of its very small size and fluffy feathers that make it look like a feather duster. Silkie Bantams are extremely affectionate as well. Average weekly lay: 3 eggs.
  • Wyandotte: This is a beautiful and reliable large chicken breed that comes in very different colors and patterns. Average weekly lay: 4 eggs.

In the picture below you can see a Silkie Bantam.

Chickens as Pets: Guidelines and Breeds - Chicken breeds for beginners

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