No Show Stoppers Here, But You're Better Off Knowing These Things Now
I am a big fan of chickens as pets and have written articles to that effect, but in interests of honest disclosure, I need to point our a few things. None of these things are show stoppers, but you should know them if you are considering how to look after a chicken. Ultimately, keeping chickens as pets are totally worth dealing with this issues.
1) Amazing amount of poop. Chickens poop an incredible amount. How often do chickens poop? I couldn't find any definitive research on the subject, but my own empirical evidence and observation suggests between 30 and 40 times a day. Each poop ranges from hazelnut to walnut size.
This can be fantastic for your grass depending on the size of your lawn and quantity of chickens. I let my chickens wander freely in my fenced back yard, but I do have a small patio near the lawn and I find lots of poop on it. I just spray it off with water and it isn't a big deal. But depending on where you let your chickens roam, this may or may not be an issue for you. Rule of thumb, if your chicken can get somewhere, you'll eventually find poop on it.
2) Chickens are delicious. You know it and so do animals. Fences will keep your chickens safe from dogs during the day, but at night when raccoons, ferrets, bobcats, skunks, mountain lions, and similar come out, you need a secure chicken house for them. You can buy a pre-built chicken coop for two chickens for as little as $250 online, but any coop with a decent amount of size is going to be $500+. A much less expensive alternative is building your own coop, which is surprisingly simple to do. Safe housing will also provide a place for chickens to roost, which is how they like to sleep.
If you have dogs and they are killing your chickens, there is an easy, straight-forward way to stop dogs from killing chickens. It's a little gross, but it's simple and it works. Take the dead chicken by the legs and tie it around the dog's collar with rope. Leave the dead chicken there for two weeks. If it happens again, double the amount of time. The dog will hate this and try to get the dead chicken away from it, but if tied close enough, be unable to even reach the chicken to chew it off. This can be emotionally difficult to do to a dog you love, but it simply works.
3) Noisy post-egg celebrations. After laying an egg, chickens will often making loud clucking and “bok”ing noise...like this: “bok bok bok bok BAAAAK”. It can be surprisingly noisy. However, chickens often lay their eggs in the morning, so these celebrations are usually around 8 to 10 in morning and shouldn't bother any sleeping neighbors too much. I've found going outside and picking up the noisy chicken or feeding the noisy chicken some scrap bread will distract the chicken and stop the clucking.
4) Clever, and they've got time. If you let your chickens roam your backyard, they will discover all kinds of little escape routes you didn't anticipate. Gaps in fences, access to deck stairs, ways to fly over your fence, etc...It's almost like baby proofing your house. Chickens spend all day walking around looking for food and they've got great vision. If there is a way to get out, they'll find it. After three years, I think I've blocked all escape routes for my own chickens, but it took additional fencing and regular clipping of their wings.
5) Pecking order does exist. You may have heard the phrase 'pecking order'. Pecking order in chickens really exists and it can be painful to watch as they establish and maintain this order. In any group of chickens there will be a 'lead' chicken that is more aggressive and dominant than the other chickens. The other chickens will tend to follow this dominant chicken's lead in things like leaving the chicken coop and going to certain places in the yard. Then there will be the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order that all the other chickens will be mean to, by pecking at it if it gets too close to them, or shoving the chicken out of way when roosting. It's discomforting to see animals bullying each other.
Pet chickens are not perfect, but they do make wonderful family pets and now you have an idea of some of the things to expect. If you enjoyed this article, check out some of the other articles I've written about chickens here:
- Dogs vs Chickens: The Family Pet Showdown
- 5 Reasons Chickens Make Fantastic Family Pets
- Farm Fresh Eggs Are Healthy Eggs
- How To Train Chickens Into Pets