page header image

Chickens can make backyard pets

Original Publication Date: November 2, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

The practice of keeping chickens as animal companions or the "urban chicken movement" gained popularity in the early 2000s.

An increasing number of families continue to acquire chickens as backyard pets.

Chicks certainly solve a problem for folks who want a pet but are allergic to dogs and cats. Many people find chickens as loyal as dogs and regard them as the best pets ever. As a bonus, they supply wonderful fresh eggs and are an all-natural form of pest control. However, there are a few things to consider before getting chickens as pets.

Check your local laws and regulations. Some city ordinances or neighborhood homeowners' association rules ban keeping chickens as pets. Occasionally, roosters are outlawed as noisy nuisances, but quieter hens are allowed. A rooster can be kept with hens, but it is not required. Hens will lay eggs with or without a male around.

Hundreds of chicken breeds are available. You decide if you want one that produces lots of eggs or is a color you like. There are those that are the standard chicken size and smaller bantams that are the equivalent of a toy dog.

Chickens are flock animals, so you will need more than one. They do not have to be the same breed, but you do need adequate space for the number of chicks you want. It is wise to do some research.

Chickens need a sturdy house that can be locked at night to keep them safe from foxes, neighborhood dogs and other critters.

Their coop floor should be covered with untreated pine shavings and cleaned weekly. Avoid cedar shavings as they can be toxic.

Chickens also need adequate room to roam in the daytime. A fenced run is preferred by many to keep the chicks out of flower beds and gardens.

Hardware cloth is recommended for fences as flimsier chicken wire can easily be torn by predators.

Sophia with Henrietta Sophia with Henrietta
(click image to enlarge)

Chickens need a fresh supply of feed and water that should be checked daily. Feed supply stores carry poultry feed to support the health of the chicks and the quality of their eggs.

Like any pet, chickens enjoy treats. Cracked corn, tomatoes, apples and anything baked are favorites. Avoid chocolate, raw potatoes and avocados as these are toxic to birds.

Chicks also like to eat weeds and insects so they are helpful at keeping your yard neat and pest free.

Chickens may be a bit standoffish about being picked up. Combine patience with the positive reinforcement of treats and they will learn to come to their name.

They also enjoy being petted and cuddled. If held often from an early age, they may become lap chicks. Like people and dogs, each has her own personality. If you are looking for animal companionship and have a backyard, you may want to consider a few chickens.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at Holistic-