Should Chickens Be Your Next Pet? Egg-splore the Joy

Find out why chicken coops are popping up in backyards everywhere — from cuddles to coos, a new pet chicken might be right for you.

Published November 3, 2023
girl cuddling pet chicken in backyard

When we chat about the usual pet crowd, we're picturing cozy cats, happy-go-lucky dogs, or adorable bunnies and their cute little hops. But chickens as pets? Yes! In fact, more and more households are making this move. And let me tell you — pet chickens are quite the characters. Each one has their own little quirks. They can be super sociable and get pretty chummy with their humans. And hey, if you choose some hens, you'll have fresh eggs for breakfast every morning too. 

Fast Fact

Chickens are social birds, so make sure you're prepared to have a few to keep each other company.

Are Chickens Good Pets?

Raising chickens as pets can be a whole heap of fun and full of surprises, especially if you're just getting to know these feathered friends.

Chickens Are Individuals

Each one has a personality all their own — you might find one that loves snuggling up for cuddles or perching cozily on your lap, while another prefers doing their own thing.

Chickens Are Social

Most are social butterflies, too. They love hanging out in their groups, sorting out who's boss in what they call their 'pecking order.'

Chickens Do Their Own Thing

If you spend a day with them, you might catch them lounging in the sun, having a spa moment in the dust, or doing a little scratch-and-peck dance as they hunt for their favorite snacks — bugs! They're not quiet about it, either.

Chickens Like to Talk

Chickens will chat away with all sorts of sounds, from contented purrs to urgent squawks — some will even come running when you call their names.

Chickens Have Feelings

Like our cats and dogs, chickens wear their hearts on their wings — you'll see when they're happy, curious, and even when something's got them a bit frustrated.

Hang around them long enough, and you'll realize that chickens bring a lot more to the table than just eggs. They're full of surprises and packed with personality, and they can be endearing sidekicks with their own special charm. 

Need to Know

Chickens can be brought inside for short periods, and need a coop to roost in, but they're really outdoor pets. They prefer the air and hunting and pecking in your yard to being inside the home. 

Can I Have a Chicken as a Pet?

Every town, city, or county can have its own set of regulations when it comes to keeping chickens. Start by visiting your local government's website or giving them a quick call. They usually have information on local ordinances related to poultry. If you're part of a homeowner association (HOA) or live in a planned community, check their bylaws too. Sometimes, even if the city allows it, the HOA might not.

Libraries can also be a handy resource, offering access to local codes. And don't forget to chat with neighbors or local chicken groups — they can provide insights based on their own experiences. A little homework upfront can save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Need to Know

Many cities allow pet chickens, but restrict roosters. Their early-morning crows can be a bit much in tight city-living.

Do Chickens Like Being Petted or Cuddling?

Many chicken breeds do enjoy being petted, especially if you start when they're just little chicks. It's all about picking a breed that's known for being friendly if you're really looking for a bird that enjoys quality bonding time. When you're getting your chicken used to being handled, remember to take it slow — no sudden moves. The friendly ones usually like a nice stroke on the back. But just like people, each chicken has its own likes and dislikes with affection. 

Smiling girl with eyes closed holding hen
Need to Know

Some chickens prefer to cuddle more than others. Take it slow and let your pet chicken show you what they're comfortable with and what they prefer not to do. 

The Benefits of Having Chickens as Pets

If you have never thought about having a chicken as a pet and you’ve got the time and space to keep them, consider adding a small flock to your family. There are a handful of chicken breeds that are super simple to care for and will enjoy as much attention as they want to give, especially for families with kids.  

Education for Kids

Keeping chickens can be an excellent way for children to learn about nature, responsibility, and their food source. It offers hands-on lessons in biology, ecology, and husbandry.

Help with Pest Control

Chickens are great at reducing pests in your yard. They'll happily gobble up insects, weeds, and even small rodents. And my personal favorite —they get rid of the ticks in your yard!

Improved Mental Health

Their care routines and presence can be calming and provide a sense of therapeutic interaction. Sitting and listening to your flock cooing and clucking is just so relaxing. 

Save Your Veggie Scraps

Chickens can eat many kitchen scraps, reducing household waste and recycling nutrients through your yard. 

Being Part of the Chicken Community

Chicken people are fabulous! There's a whole online community available to help you, and you may find others in your local area who love these cluckers too.

How Long Do Pet Chickens Live?

Give your chickens the TLC they deserve, and you could have your feathered friends around for a nice long stretch, usually from 5 to 10 years. But those little bantam chickens? They're in it for the long haul, potentially celebrating a dozen or more birthdays. Just like us, how long they live can depend on their overall health, where they live, and the food they eat.

Common Health Problems in Pet Chickens

Like any other furry or feathered friend you might have, chickens can get under the weather too. If you're a chicken keeper, watch for any hints that your feathered buddies aren't feeling their best. Get up to speed on the common chicken health problems, so if something's off, you'll spot it right away. The quicker you catch on to any issues, the better shot your chickens have at bouncing back. 

Common issues you may encounter:

  • Bumblefoot: An infection and swelling in the foot caused by a small cut or scratch getting infected with bacteria.
  • Coccidiosis: This is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract. Signs can include diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
  • Crop disorders: The crop is where food is stored before digestion. Issues can arise if it becomes impacted (blocked) or if there's a yeast infection, known as "sour crop."
  • Mites and lice: Parasites that can cause itching, irritation, and feather loss. Regular checks and clean coops can help prevent infestations.
  • Respiratory diseases: These can be caused by various bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Signs include coughing, sneezing, and discharge from their eyes or nostrils.
Quick Tip

Dog and cat veterinarians don't usually treat chickens. Find a chicken veterinarian near you prior to setting up your coop.

Chicken Rescues

With more folks getting into raising backyard chickens, there's sadly a growing number of chickens that aren't wanted anymore. Some people ditch them when they don't lay as many eggs, or when they realize how much work chickens can be. That's where chicken rescue groups come in. They scoop up these poor birds, nurse them back to health, and find them loving new homes where they'll be cared for. 

Fluffy chicken
  • Coming Home Sanctuary: Coming Home Sanctuary has 50 acres available to rescues, including chickens, cows, cats, rabbits, and other farm animals.
  • Fallin' Pines Critter Rescue: This critter rescue is a lifetime home to many unwanted animals, but they do offer many for adoption, including chickens. They're located in Christmas, Florida.
  • The Barn Sanctuary: The Barn Sanctuary in Chelsea, Michigan, rescues and rehabilitates abused and neglected farmed animals while providing a safe haven where they can recover and thrive.
  • The Chicken Sanctuary: A 501(c)3 organization that rescues abandoned chickens

Make Sure You're Prepared

Keeping chickens as pets can be surprisingly fun and rewarding. They have their own unique personalities, and it's enjoyable to get to know them. You'll get to collect fresh eggs and enjoy watching their funny behaviors every day. Different kinds of chickens, like the fluffy Silkies or the sturdy Rhode Island Reds, can be cuddly and entertaining. But remember, they need your time and care to stay healthy and happy. If you're ready for the responsibility, having chickens can be really fulfilling.

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Should Chickens Be Your Next Pet? Egg-splore the Joy