I can’t imagine my life without chickens. I’ve had them since I was 14 and raising them has become part of my identity. Friends and relatives are always giving me little trinkets and chicken paraphernalia, or forwarding bits of chicken information or interesting articles. It makes me happy that when people see these charming little birds that they think of me. I see it as a compliment really.
After my dad passed away, my mom lived with my husband Zach and I for a while. She’s never caught the “farm bug” but while she lived here, she could appreciate why we were doing what we do, and she understood the nostalgia and peace that comes with living on a farm.
My mom has since moved into an apartment and for the most part she’s quite happy. But the other day I was talking to her on the phone and she was saying that she missed the farm. She missed the peace and quiet and she missed watching the chickens scratch and peck around the yard. I jokingly suggested that she take a few Bantams home with her the next time she was over. I told her about house chickens and how you can make saddles to catch their droppings and that many movie stars even keep house chickens. We sort of laughed it off, but after I hung up the phone it got me thinking.
I’ve been blessed to always live on some sort of acreage where chickens, goats, and gardens were feasible. Nature and animals are part of who I am. I started thinking about what I would do if my living circumstances changed, and I suddenly found myself in a more urban setting.
For starters, I would have every windowsill packed with plants and vegetables. Grow lights and hydroponic set ups would definitely be considered. But what about chickens?
Keeping chickens would depend more on what kind of urban setting you were living. If you had a landlord in an apartment, for example, they might not be cool with you keeping chickens no matter the set up. But if you were in a home with even a small lot, this might open up some options.
Many cities are opening up to the idea of backyard chickens and making allowances for even the tiniest of properties. (Which I plan to discuss in a future post) But what if your neighborhood doesn’t allow backyard chickens? Does that mean your dream of a slice of the farmyard pie can never be served? Maybe, but maybe not.
There is the prospect of a house chicken.
My first reaction, was that people who keep chickens in their house are a few cards short of a full deck. They are right up there with cat hoarders or people who keep alligators in their bathtubs. And I wasn’t alone in this opinion. I’ve read the comments (and not very nice ones at that) when people write blogs or post photos of house chickens on social media sites.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the notion of a house chicken being ridiculous is really just a frame of mind. Society has placed chickens in a category because we are used to the idea that they live on farms. But really, they are just a bird. What’s the difference between keeping a chicken in the house, or a large parrot, macaw or cockatoo? And for that matter, we think nothing of welcoming a 200 pound St. Bernard into our homes, to sit on our couches and sleep with us in our beds (well, it would have to be a big bed). But none the less, I’ve changed my perspective.
So if you’re considering keeping a house chicken, here are some items and considerations that might help you in this venture.
1. First, like all animals, chickens can carry diseases and parasites so it’s important to work with your vetrinarian to keep your house chicken healthy. Chickens often get diseases and parasites from other chickens, outdoor factors, or unsanitary living quarters. The fact that a house chicken would be living a more isolated life cuts down on the chances of disease through exposure, but it’s important to take precautions.
2. Take into consideration the other pets you share your house with. A prey driven dog or cat may torment, scare or even injure a house chicken. Also tropical birds can carry diseases like New Castle Disease that can make your chicken sick.
3. Where will your chicken will live? Chickens can be kept in roomy cage much like an indoor rabbit. The cage should be considered a safe place for the chicken to eat, drink and live when they are not having supervised out-of-cage roam time. The cage should have some sort of substrate on the floor to help with waste, odor and to give the chicken some relief from the pressure of wires on the feet. The cage should be cleaned at least twice a week.
4. Chickens like to scratch and take dust baths which will create dust and a mess that might spread beyond the limits of even a large cage. Keep the primary living space of your chicken away from areas like the kitchen, or bedroom. And make sure the area around the chicken cage is easily cleanable. Like a linoleum floor that can easily be wiped.
5. Make sure you or anyone in your household is not allergic to chickens or the chicken bedding. I have a pine allergy, so when we brood chicks in the house the pine bedding really bothers my sinuses. I’ve tried other bedding available but I don’t like it as much. Thankfully, it’s only for a short period so I can get through brooding season without too much discomfort.
6. To keep chickens from flying around your home when they are out of their cage, wings can be trimmed. (For helpful tips check out my post Trimming Turkey Feathers) Also toenails will have to be trimmed because your chicken won’t be wearing them down scratching outdoors.
7. Chickens enjoy being outside. The sunlight also helps them in egg production. So like a dog, if your chicken can’t roam freely in the yard, it will enjoy a daily walk or two. Here is a chicken harness from My Pet Chicken to allow some outdoor time with your bird. It also doubles as a diaper to take care of sanitary measures indoors.
8. Chickens can also be bathed to keep them clean and ready for your home. For more information on this, check out my article Chicken Bath 101.
9. Consider feeding a pellet food if possible and a drip type waterer to keep messes to a minimum. Always provide grit for aid in digestion. Fresh greens and meal worms are a healthy addition to the house chicken’s diet.
10. Consider keeping a house chicken that you’ve raised from a chick. Chances are, the chicken will be more tame having grown up in a household environment as opposed to taking a chicken that’s used to being outdoors and trying to get it to settle into a more controlled environment.
11. Choosing the right indoor chicken. Some breeds might be more suitable for indoor life. Think of things like size and temperament. Many breeds are more docile than others. Also, I would assume a hen would be a better choice than a rooster. It might be a little loud to have an indoor rooster, especially since your house would be lit into the evening and he’d be crowing right along with the nightly news.
I’ve heard the argument that this style of life for a chicken is far from a natural existence and therefore cruel. I would agree that it is very un-natural and actually, very unlike the manner in which we raise our own chickens. But I would have to argue that if done right, it’s anything but cruel. Any form of “pet-keeping” is keeping an animal away from it’s natural setting. A dog’s life has little in common anymore with its wild wolf cousins, yet dogs live happy and spoiled lives with their human companions; never having to worry where their next meal is coming and sleeping on duvet covers in temperature controlled housing. This life style is far from cruel. And further yet, any chicken living in someone’s household has a better chance of a satisfying life than the battery chickens that spends their life in a factory cage.
I’d love to hear your opinions on this matter. Do you think a house chicken is a crazy idea? Do you keep house chickens? Do you have any additional tips? Feel free to share them in a comment below or on the Community Chickens Facebook Page.