Sanitary Issues with Chickens as Pets
Excellent sanitary practices would need to be used to avoid the spread of disease commonly carried by chickens. Having chickens as pets means cleaning up after them. While there are some routine times that a chicken passes waste from its body, it also can happen unexpectedly. Can you house break a chicken like you can a puppy? I don’t know the answer to that. A puppy with proper training will outgrow the “accidents” of puppyhood, while a chicken may never stop pooping on the arm of your favorite chair. Chicken poop also can carry the bacteria and microorganisms responsible for serious illness. Salmonella, coccidia, and e-coli are a few organisms that are commonly found in chicken droppings, even if the chicken has no signs of illness. Keeping chickens as pets inside your home requires extreme care to clean up any droppings and disinfect the area.
And then there is the fact that chickens as pets will also be chickens on your table and your furniture. On this particular point, I don’t see much difference between a chicken and a cat. Cats use the litter box, scratch and then jump on your bed to take a catnap. Chickens scratch around in the ground, eat bugs, and in the case of house chickens, jump on whatever they want. If you are a bit squeamish, this may not appeal to you.
Chicken diapers are available for the enthusiast who really just has to have a couple chickens as pets. These are typically small cloth sacks that are fastened to the tail and vent area of the chicken with elastic straps that wrap around the upper wing joint. And yes, they do need to be changed, as all diapers do.
Do chickens need heat in winter? Normally chickens are very cold tolerant. They grow a heavy insulating layer of downy feathers before cold weather sets in. If you normally keep your indoor temperature on the warm side for your comfort, your chicken may overheat or be uncomfortable. In addition, the chicken’s skin and feathers may dry out from the forced air heat that many homes use for heat. The use of a wood burning fireplace or stove brings in a whole other set of concerns if you are keeping chickens as pets in your home. Chickens have sensitive respiratory tracts and the smoky dry air from a wood burning stove may irritate their breathing passages.
Why Bring a Chicken in the House
Often, a chicken kept as a house pet starts when the hen was being bullied, or was injured. As humans we feel bad seeing an animal that needs help and our softer side tells us to bring the chicken into the house for just a little while. But, those winning chicken personalities can sway us and it may be hard to take the chicken back to the coop! But then you have to ask yourself, who is ruling the roost here? I have had a chicken in our home for respite care and recovery from injuries and I think she enjoyed the extra TLC. I also think she was glad to get back to the coop and back to the business of being a chicken. Chickens like to be part of the flock. They are not solitary animals. In some chickens being separated from the flock is actually a stress producer. This may be a good reason to treat any issues with the chicken and return it to the flock as soon as possible. In some instances the chicken may be the lone survivor from a predator attack. In that case I would recommend either looking for more hens to join your survivor or possibly giving your hen to another chicken keeper, when it has recovered.
Chickens as Easter Gifts
Often, in the spring, well meaning parents end up buying baby chicks as a gift for their children, not realizing the proper care involved and how quickly the chickens will grow up to be large. People don’t always check to see if they can have a chicken coop in their neighborhood or town and then try to keep the chickens as pets. Usually this does not last too long before a farmer or homesteader is contacted to try to rehome the Easter gift chickens.
Are there certain chicken breeds that would make a better house pet? Perhaps bantam breeds would make better chickens as pets. They are smaller and would create less waste and mess. Also, the more docile breeds, such as the the Orpington chicken, might be well suited for chickens as pets. I am not saying that you can’t successfully raise a chicken as a house pet. I am sure many people do this and have mastered the art of keeping it clean and sanitary while enjoying the fun antics and personalities of their avian house pet. Before going into any pet situation it is always best to research the care needs of the pet, if keeping the pet breaks any laws, and what you will do with the pet if things just don’t work out.
Do you keep chickens as pets in the house? If so, share with us in the comments below, your tips and tricks for success.