Chickens are flock animals, which means that they form strong relationships with other birds and are capable of emotional intelligence. But do they form bonds with their human owners or just other birds?
Pet chickens may love their owners, but it’s difficult to say for sure. They recognize the faces of their owners and may jump into their owner’s lap or cluck affectionately at them. This could be evidence of a strong bond of love, or it could simply be a response to the routine of being fed.
Learn more below about how humans and chickens can develop a better relationship.
Why Chickens Might Love Their Owners
While it’s impossible to know the depth or complexity of the feelings that chickens have for their owners, there are clear signs that they grow attached, and we know for sure that chickens can recognize human faces.
Chickens often follow their owners around and enjoy playing with them. They’ll also peck around the feet of a person they know in what’s thought to be an affectionate gesture, which could be because they associate their owners with feeding time.
Regardless of the reason, it’s clear from these cues that chickens do grow familiar and attached.
How To Bond With Your Pet Chicken
The best way to bond with your chicken is to consistently provide it with attention and food — this teaches associating you with positive feelings.
Talk to your pet chickens so that they learn what your voice sounds like. Chickens recognize distinct words and phrases, so you can even teach them to expect food with certain calls.
The more time you spend with your chickens and the more consistent you are, the more likely it is that they’ll trust you and develop a bond.
If your chicken has a large crest, you can also encourage trust by trimming the crest, which improves their ability to see and will help them differentiate you from a predator or other threat.
You can also teach your chickens that you’re not a threat by moving slowly around them, avoiding sudden movements or loud noises.
Do Chickens Bond With Each Other?
Chickens are flock birds, and while they do establish hierarchies in their groups, they also cohabitate peacefully due to their ability to form relationships.
Would-be chicken owners are encouraged to get flocks of chickens, rather than just one because they do so much better in the company of other chickens.
You can see the bonds between chickens, and especially between mothers and their chicks. You can tell that two chickens are bonded by whether they show distress when separated and whether or not they show distress when the other is distressed.
Mothers bond with their chicks primarily by talking to them, often before the chicks hatch.
Once hatched, these chicks are accustomed to the sound of their mother’s voice and will follow her around much in the same way that chickens learn to follow around their human owners.
Why Some Chickens Are More Affectionate Than Others
Some breeds of chicken are inherently more affectionate than others.
The breed most commonly associated with loving humans is the Barred Rocks Chicken, which is known to sit on their owners’ laps and be comfortable spending time close to humans.
Chickens also vary in their levels of affection and attachment, which depends on whether they’re roosters or hens and how old they are.
Roosters vs. Hens
Roosters and hens behave differently at different ages. When they’re young, roosters tend to be the friendlier of the two, where older roosters tend to be more aloof.
While all chickens fight from time to time, roosters tend to be more aggressive in the case of a conflict.
Roosters are also more confident than hens, on average, which makes them less likely to be frightened by humans and can make them better pets overall. However, they’re very noisy, more so than the hens.
Most Affectionate Chicken Breeds
There are many friendly breeds of chicken that make good pets. The most affectionate options include the following:
- Sebright Chickens: These are beautiful creatures that are very comfortable around children, but they can be very noisy, and produce a lot of chatter.
- Silkie Chickens: These have hair-like, fluffy feathers and are known to enjoy being held and pet.
- Brahma Chickens: They’re calm by nature and aren’t easily rattled by human interactions. They make for good cuddlers and are very hardy, large chickens.
- Cochin Chickens: These are some of the fluffiest chickens you’ll find, with big, thick layers of black feathers. They’re very friendly and enjoy being held by humans.
- Speckled Sussex Chickens: This breed tends to be curious about humans and less likely to be scared or startled than some less-friendly breeds.
- Easter Egg Chickens: They like to sit on laps and are very docile.
- Orpington Chickens: They’re both friendly and quiet, although they will cluck affectionately at their owners from time to time.
- Faverolle Chickens: These are soft, pillowy chickens that are very gentle and remain affectionate and calm while being handled.
- Wyandotte Chickens: They’re calm by nature and tend to make some noise. However, you need to give them plenty of room to forage, or else they’ll be unfriendly towards others in their flock.
- Rhode Island Red Chickens: They’re outgoing and friendly, especially the hens.
Least Affectionate Chicken Breeds
Less affectionate breeds include the Polish Chicken and any other chickens that lay white eggs.
These chickens aren’t necessarily unfriendly or mean, but they do tend to be more timid and skittish, so they’re less likely to enjoy being handled or jump onto your lap for a cuddle.
Do Chickens Make Good Pets?
While some might consider chickens to be more like livestock than pets, there are many reasons why chickens are worth being considered family pets.
Not only are they affectionate, but they’re also interesting and intelligent animals that you can get to know on a personal level. Each has its own personality, including different behaviors and quirks.
Chickens can also live on almost any property, provided that you have space for a coop. Only some areas put restrictions on the number of birds that you can have.
Can You Keep Pet Chickens Indoors?
While it’s possible to keep an indoor chicken coop, your best option is to allow your chickens a backyard space to run and forage, in addition to a coop where they can lay eggs and roost in peace.
Indoor chickens may lack the enrichment they’d otherwise get from time spent outdoors and can spread diseases to humans, especially if they poop in the house.
Do Chickens Do Well With Other Pets?
While chickens are flock animals that are prone to bonding, they don’t often do well with other pets, especially cats and dogs.
These animals come across as predators and may even be a threat to your chickens, especially when they’re chicks.
That said, it is possible to train your pets to get along with your chickens, especially as your chickens grow older and bigger.
While pet chickens might love their owners, all we know for sure is that chickens recognize their owners and respond positively to them, which could be a simple reaction to the habit of being fed by a certain person, or it could be a sign of a deeper bond.
Chickens are flock animals, and it’d make sense for them to form strong bonds with others.