Chickens were once thought of strictly as farm animals, but as more cities allow backyard chickens, these birds are now being kept for their pet potential, as well as their eggs. The following recommendations are based on keeping pet hens, since roosters are naturally more aggressive.
10 Chickens That Make Good Pets
Silkies are one of the best breeds to keep as pets. Their soft feathers feel almost like hair, and their fluffiness makes them look more like a Muppet than a chicken, which really makes them appealing to children. According to Cackle Hatchery, some Silkies have "beards" which almost totally obscure their faces, while others are beardless. These chickens are also unusual because they have naturally black skin, bright blue earlobes, and a fifth toe on each foot.
While keeping a chicken indoors is not recommended since you really can't house train them, this breed is probably the best choice for at least bringing into the house occasionally.
- Temperament: Sweet and friendly; enjoys being held and petted
- Size: Bantam, weighing about 32 to 36 ounces
- Colors/patterns include: Solid colors black, blue, white, and buff, as well as patterns like partridge, and splash
- Hardiness: Protect from rain and cold due to the lack of hard feathers
- Egg-laying capacity: About two to three brown eggs per week
Standard Brahmas are one of the largest chicken breeds, and even bantam Brahmas are larger than many other bantam breeds. Their profuse feathering makes them exceptionally cuddly. They have small pea combs, and feathered legs and toes.
- Temperament: Described as calm and docile by the Livestock Conservancy
- Sizes: Comes in standard size (9 to 12 pounds) and bantam size (34 to 38 ounces)
- Colors include: Light, dark, and buff
- Hardiness: Tolerant of cold winter weather, but feet should be inspected daily for accumulation of snow clumps; should be given some shelter from summer heat
- Egg-laying capacity: Two to three light brown eggs per week for standards; one to two creamy white eggs per week for bantams
According to Meyer Hatchery, Cochins are one of the fluffiest breeds, and their thick layers of feathers and down make them appear larger than they really are. These single-comb chickens also have feathers on their feet, so clean and check them every week to make sure they don't develop sores or exceptionally scaly skin that might indicate a mite infestation.
Bantams of this breed might also make good, sometimes-indoor pets with constant supervision.
- Temperament: Docile and friendly; enjoy being held
- Size: Comes in standard size (8 to 11 pounds) and bantam (28 to 32 ounces)
- Colors/patterns include: Solid colors, laced, mottled, partridge, and more
- Hardiness: Cold tolerant, but keep an eye on foot feathers for ice balls during winter; provide shelter from excessive heat in summer
- Egg-laying capacity: About two brown eggs per week for standards and bantams
Speckled Sussex Chickens
The Speckled Sussex is a fairly large and beautiful chicken. According to My Pet Chicken, it has a single comb, and its feet are free of feathers. Hens of this breed tend to go broody, which means they will try to incubate their eggs even if there isn't a rooster around to fertilize them. Still, they have nice personalities and make good pets. Just be sure to check the nest box and coop each day and remove any eggs right away.
- Temperament: Curious and interested in people; fairly calm and not prone to flying
- Size: Standard size, seven to nine pounds
- Color: Rich, mahogany feathers with black and white speckling that increases with age
- Hardiness: Cold-hardy and heat tolerant
- Egg-laying capacity: About four to five light brown eggs a week
Easter Egger Chickens
According to Cackle Hatchery, Easter eggers are not a true breed. They are incredibly popular hybrids of Araucana and Ameraucana chicken heritage that are particularly prized for the unusual colors of their eggs. These chickens have pea combs, feather "beards," and feather-free feet. They're great egg producers, and they don't appear to mind being confined so they're very easy to care for.
- Temperament: Easy going, friendly, and like to sit on their caretaker's lap
- Size: Comes in standard size (five and a half to six and a half pounds) and bantam size (26 to 30 ounces)
- Colors include: A wide variety of color and pattern combinations due to their hybrid heritage
- Hardiness: Very tolerant of heat and cold
- Egg-laying capacity: Approximately five to six eggs per week for standards, and about four per week for bantams; color ranges from blue to green to pale pink; hen lays a single color
According to the Livestock Conservancy, Orpingtons were created by breeding Minorca roosters to Black Plymouth Rock hens, and then breeding their offspring to Langshan chickens. Orpingtons are good-sized chickens with single combs and clean feet.
- Temperament: Laid back and friendly; love to receive food treats; generally quiet, but tend to cluck at their caregivers
- Size: Standard, seven to eight and a half pounds
- Colors/patterns include: Buff, black, blue, white, speckled (Jubilee), mottled (spangled), and black and white striped (cuckoo)
- Hardiness: Cold hardy and heat tolerant
- Egg-laying capacity: Approximately four eggs per week
According to Meyer Hatchery, the Faverolle is a gorgeous, single-combed, French breed with extremely full feathering, as well as a beard, ear tufts, and feathers on the legs and feet. Holding one feels like holding a warm pillow. Faverolles are also one of a few breeds that actually have five toes on each foot.
- Temperament: Gentle, affectionate, and calm around children
- Size: Standard, six and a half to eight pounds
- Colors: Creamy white with honey brown and touches of black
- Hardiness: Does well in cold weather, but check feathers on the feet daily for ice balls
- Egg-laying capacity: About three to four cream-colored eggs per week
According to Cackle Hatchery, Australorps are some of the most prolific egg layers. They have single combs and no feathers on their feet. These chickens are considered Australia's national breed, according to the Australorp Club of Australia.
- Temperament: Typically easy going and social; enjoys being petted
- Size: Comes in standard size (six and a half to eight pounds) and bantam size (27 to 41 ounces)
- Color: Black with a metallic green sheen that shows in direct sunlight
- Hardiness: Cold hardy; protect from excessive heat
- Egg-laying capacity: About four to five brown eggs a week, sometimes more
According to My Pet Chicken, Wyandottes are heavy-bodied chickens with small rose combs that resist frostbite in the winter. These chickens also have nice, fully bodies of feathers that come in amazing colors and patterns that are really breathtaking, especially in a mixed flock where they truly standout. Think of them as showgirls of the chicken world.
- Temperament: Calm and friendly; can be "chatty" with their caregivers; often bossy toward other chickens if not given sufficient room to forage
- Size: Comes in standard size (six and a half to seven and a half pounds) and bantam size (24 to 30 ounces)
- Colors/Patterns include: Silver laced, gold laced, blue laced red, Columbian (black-spotted hackle on white with a black tail), buff, partridge, and more
- Hardiness: Cold hardy and fairly heat tolerant
- Egg-laying capacity: About four light brown eggs per week
Barred Plymouth Rock Chickens
Simply known as Barred Rocks, these chickens are a variety of Plymouth Rocks, and they're very good egg producers. According to My Pet Chicken, they have single combs and unfeathered feet and legs. Barred Rocks are visually stunning with their bold stripes and red combs and wattles, so they are also standouts in any backyard flock, just like Wyandottes.
- Temperament: A little sassy at times, but still friendly and curious
- Size: Comes in standard size (six to seven and a half pounds) and bantam size (32 to 36 ounces)
- Color: Black bars over white
- Hardiness: Very cold and heat tolerant
- Egg-laying capacity: Approximately four light-brown eggs per week
Bringing Out Your Chicken's Pet Potential
Although the breeds mentioned above have some of the greatest pet potential, many hens can be tamed if you work with your chick from the time she comes home.
- Handle your chick for short periods throughout the day, gradually working up to longer sessions a couple times a day as you gain her trust.
- Always hold your pet securely with one arm around her body, and one hand cradling her chest. If you sit, she'll eventually relax on your lap while you gently stroke her.
- Speak softly to your pet so you don't startle her.
- Keep plenty of chick food and clean water available, and clean up droppings frequently. Less environmental stress means a more relaxed and healthy pet.
Where to Buy Pet Chickens
Pet chickens are easier to come by than you may realize. You can buy them both locally and online.
Buying in Person
Local farmers sometimes have extra chicks to sell, and Tractor Supply Company sells chicks in their stores during their annual Chick Days celebration every March through April. Bins are marked either as pullets (hens) or straight run, which means you could get a pullet or a rooster, and you won't know which until the chick matures.
Meyer Hatchery, My Pet Chicken, and Cackle Hatchery are three online sources for chicks. Unlike many hatcheries that require you to buy as many as 15 to 25 chicks at a time, you can order as little as three standard chicks or, with the exception of Cackle Hatchery, five bantam chicks, and they don't all have to be the same breed. Note that My Pet Chicken is the only hatchery that offers sexed bantams.
Keep in mind that since these are live animals, there aren't always enough hatched chicks to supply the demand, which can be disappointing. Be sure to pick out a couple of substitute breeds in case you're notified your order can't be filled as requested.
Be Sure You Really Want a Chicken
It's easy to get swept up in the moment when you're looking at a cute little chick or a beautiful adult chicken, but chickens aren't the ideal pet for everyone. Do your homework and make sure you can provide proper living space for your pet, and that your municipality allows backyard chickens. Once you've done that, try to visit someone that has pet chickens so you can see what they're really like, and then you can decide if this is truly the right pet for you.