If you’re part of the meat-eating population of humankind, you might think that chickens make a darn good meal. However, whatever our diets may be composed of, many of us know that chickens make fabulous pets too. Of course, it takes someone with an open mind to see beneath the feathers and squawking; chicken affection is different from the quadruped mammal variety.
Make sure your local government allows chickens to be kept as pets before taking one into your family. It wouldn’t do to have your chicken confiscated because a pesky neighbor called animal control. Misguided or not, governments want to know that chickens are being taken care of properly – which may seem like a hypocrisy given the state of the poultry industry. But in any case, the government doesn’t want private citizens mishandling chickens or spreading diseases inadvertently.
It is better to adopt an adult chicken than a baby chick. Determining the sex of a chick is extremely difficult, if not impossible. If you end up with a rooster, you may have a problem on your hands soon. Some city ordinances prohibit roosters as pets because of the noise they make. Adopting a baby chick is a gamble unless your living situation allows for a hen or rooster.
How Chickens Show Affection
Hens have long been known to be very affectionate, empathetic creatures. They nurture their young from the time when they lay their eggs. Chicks, while developing in their eggs, will get both love and education from Mother Hen. When their chicks hatch, hens will keep a close eye on them – keeping them safe and out of harm’s way. Additionally, hens know when their chicks or other chickens are in pain and they exhibit anxiety when near other chickens experiencing distress.
When a chicken is removed from its flock, her personality starts to emerge. Getting out of the “pecking order” allows her to be an individual. As a defenseless lone animal, she will look to her human for guidance and protection. Chickens most often show affection by following their human around obsessively. Feeding them by hand will seal the bond between human and chicken. Furthermore, they will allow you to hold them – provided you handle them gently and properly.
Chickens are quite intelligent. They can handle tasks and solve problems. If you have a chicken, you may have noticed how they watch everything and everyone. Observing with intent, they learn new routines in two days. Their memories may not be too different from dogs – they remember things and people even when several months have passed.
Taking Care of Chickens
Leaving chickens to be neglected is not an option. They cannot take care of themselves. You must have a safe, warm, and enclosed space for them – but with plenty of space to run or wander as they are highly active creatures. Keep them safe from predators by using a large, strong chicken coop inside their enclosed yard space. They also need a small, private area away from prying eyes in which to lay their eggs.
While chickens can eat a variety of foods, research the diet they should be eating. Feeding them corn every day is not sufficient. High quality grains and most fruits and vegetables are good for them. Table scraps can be given to your chicken, provided the ingredients are acceptable. Poultry pellets are sold in feed stores also and can supplement your chicken’s diet. Don’t worry about overfeeding; most chickens will eat only until they are satiated.
Many vets, even avian vets, do not have experience with chickens. You need to have such a vet close by, as your chicken will need regular medical care just like any cat or dog. If they sustain injuries to their legs or wings, a proper vet will need to know how to treat them. Chickens, just like dogs or cats, may contract illnesses or parasites. A suitable vet will know what to look for specifically as well as exactly which medications to administer.
Taking on a chicken should be a conscientious decision with all the pros and cons laid out carefully. They are sentient creatures capable of feeling love and pain and making sure your lifestyle can happily support a chicken until her natural death is crucial (chickens can live anywhere from 8-16 years as pets). Researching their care is so easy nowadays with the worldwide web; take advantage of it and read up before adopting a chicken.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.