So you’ve heard keeping chickens as pets is a good idea – you get free breakfast, lots of laughs, and a new best friend to watch Netflix with.
You can keep your flock in a safe coop outdoors; some people like keeping a chicken as a pet in the house (using a diaper, of course).
And many owners believe their chickens are the best form of therapy (and you even get eggs….find a therapist that can do THAT).
In this article, I’ll answer some frequent questions about keeping chickens as pets: the good, the bad, and the ugly (just kidding…there isn’t any ugly. Or bad for that matter). Pet chicken care is easy, as long as you take a few things into consideration before making the leap.
What does an indoor pet chicken eat?
Good chicken-keeping practices say that you should feed your pet chicken a high-quality layer ration with at least 16% protein feed. Most major brands out there put a lot of time and effort into producing feeds with the right amount of nutrients, so you can’t really go wrong with them.
You can also make your own non-gmo layer feed with my favorite recipe here.
That being said, your new best friend can eat most fruits and vegetables (I explain which ones to avoid here), as well as yogurt, cheese, eggs (yes eggs), and meat if you want to go that direction.
Chickens are omnivores and opportunistic eaters, so they will go for meat if you let them (they love bugs, right?). Whether you want them to have meat protein is completely up to you.
Stay away from feeding your pet chickens anything processed, with salt, sugar, or artificial anything. Fresh and all natural is best!
Pet chicken breeds
While ANY chicken can make good pets, there are some breeds that naturally lend themselves to the role. Silkies, for example, are beautiful and very docile. They’re also healthy, and love spending time with people. Rhode Island Reds are great chickens as pets, and we’ve kept a few as pets and been very happy with them.
Chickens as pets pros and cons
Before getting chickens as pets, there’s some things you should think about. Will your chickens live indoors or outdoors? Can you handle the amount of poop? (Yes, they poop a LOT).
Particularly if you have children, having a pet chicken means you will need to keep up with cleaning and disinfecting, especially if your hens live indoors; they ARE carriers of salmonella and campylobacter bacteria (amongst others), and your kids can pick the bacteria up. Ask me how I know.
This isn’t to say you SHOULDN’T keep chickens indoors, you’ll just need to be aware and be extra vigilant. There are things you can do (such as feed apple cider vinegar and yogurt) that will introduce beneficial bacteria into your pets digestive system, but it won’t eliminate ALL of the bad bacteria. It just creates an environment where the good bacteria can proliferate.
What about medical care? Do you have avian vets in your area? Are you prepared to take your chickens to a vet? Are you willing to learn how to care for her if you can’t take her to a vet? (this is possible and reasonable – we don’t have qualified avian vets in our area, so we have to wing it on our own).
Chickens are more delicate than a cat or dog, and they tend to have shorter lives. They also get mysteriously sick and don’t let their humans know until it’s too late (yes, this really does happen) – are you okay with that?
What about neighbors?
Something else to consider is whether your neighbors are on board if you decide to keep chickens as pets – ESPECIALLY if your local area has restrictions. Don’t be the guy that decides you’re smarter than city hall – the roads are paved with used-to-be chicken owners who had to get rid of their flocks because they didn’t follow town restrictions.
If you’re planning to keep your chickens indoors, then it’s none of the neighbor’s business what you do – but keeping a hen instead of a rooster is a smart idea. If your flock will live outdoors, though, you might want to clear it with the neighbors.
Even if your town doesn’t have rules about chickens, a ticked off neighbor can still complain, that the city can “invent” rules at their convenience – yes, it’s happened. People have had whole legal battles and it’s taken months to keep the chickens they were allowed to legally own in the first place. Discretion is the better part of valor.
So, do you think keeping chickens as pets is for you? I hope so, they’re a lot of fun!