The Honest Truth About Living With an Indoor Pet Chicken
Updated: Feb 8
Living with chickens is becoming the new norm - backyard chickens that is. Most of my Instagram feed is backyard chicken pages and I love it because they're really honest about what it’s like to have a backyard flock, plus they all treat their chickens like beloved pets (which of course, they are!). Unfortunately I found it very difficult to find any information on keeping an indoor pet chicken, shy of a short blog post (link below). I know that people have kept chickens as pets in the house for years, for various reasons but there isn’t a lot of information out there, so now seems like a great time to share with you what it’s really like to live with an indoor pet chicken - bear with us, we’re still learning!
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We got Pepper while visiting my family when she was only a few weeks old (my sister hatched her from an egg!) and she was just a teeny thing who was too small to be with the other peeps. I read* that most of the time when peeps are raised alone, they get severely depressed and usually pass away from loneliness - how sad is that? After a few days, I asked Eric if we could take her home and then a couple of days later, we said goodbye to the family and drove away with a little peep in a box.
As soon as we got home, I set up one of my extra rabbit cages and lined the bottom with paper towels, added a chick waterer, feeder, a little rope toy for her to sit on, a heat lamp, and her favorite stuffed animal that had been keeping her company for a few weeks. I was so proud of her little space, all perfectly set up and tiny - but I was totally unprepared for how fast she would outgrow it. In less than two weeks, we upgraded her to a medium dog crate to give her more space - then only a month after that, we upgraded her to an XL dog crate that currently takes up half of my living room (this was the plan all along, I just didn’t know how quickly she would need it!).
So now she lives comfortably in a dog crate the size of a chicken coop in the living room and watches TV with us (pictures below in order of cage size). I know a lot of people think we’re crazy, but it’s honestly just like having a large parrot in the house - complete with squawking when she wants attention or snacks.
So that’s our living situation right now - it’s not perfect and there are lots of things I would like to change but just haven’t figured out yet. I usually go to Pinterest for my DIY inspiration, but like I said before - there isn’t any information on indoor chickens. Here are some very honest things that we have to figure out:
First, though the dog crate is plenty big enough, it doesn’t keep any of her bedding from getting all over the floor, which means vacuuming every single day. A chore that is to be expected when you have a chicken living in your house - but a chore that doesn’t necessarily have to be as messy as it is. I’m trying to come up with a “corner coop” idea, but one that’s more suited to Pepper’s indoor life than a regular coop. **Update: we put a fitted sheet around the bottom of the cage to catch the mess and so far it works great!**
Second - we haven’t figured out a good suspended water system yet. As of right now, I have to replace her water every day as it always gets filled with bedding because it sits on the floor. **Update: I eventually put in a plastic bin to raise her water off the ground and keep the water clean. I still want a suspended waterer though!**
Third, chicken diapers are difficult! We have ordered several different diapers in various sizes, but because of Peppers wing deformity and very big feet, we have yet to find one that will actually stay on her long enough to catch anything.
Fourth, chickens love to take dust baths - unfortunately we haven’t figured out a way to provide that for her yet, but she still does a great deal of rolling around in her paper-filled nest box which seems to make her happy. **Update: we eventually upgraded to a deep plastic litter box that she uses as a dust bath/nest box and she loves it.**
Those are the issues we’re having, but nothing too major and definitely nothing that would make us reconsider keeping her inside with us. Like I said earlier, it’s pretty similar to having a large parrot that squawks and makes cute cooing noises. Every morning, I go downstairs and wish Pepper good morning and open the curtains for her so she can look out the window (she’s an avid bird watcher). Then I give her breakfast, make sure her water is clean, and tell her what a pretty chicken she is. It’s honestly become my favorite part of my morning ritual.
During the day, she does chicken things like flapping her wings and running around and sunning herself. Then in the evening, she calms down and lays in her nest for awhile, until I close the curtains and she gets her evening snack, followed by a hop-up on her perch for bedtime. I don’t even know when we developed a routine, I’m not even sure who trained who, but it works really well for us. So those are the good parts - the parts that I tell everyone and anyone who wants to know what having an indoor chicken is like. I’m still figuring out the poop part...
Also if you're wondering, Pepper doesn’t really mind the cats at all. When we all (us, the cats, the chicken) go outside together, she likes to stay close to the cats and help them look for bugs and things. The cats aren’t totally buddies with her, but they seem pretty used to her now. As far as the ferret goes, weasels are natural enemies to chicken coops and I don’t think the instincts will go away anytime soon, so we don’t let them play together. Pepper is used to seeing the ferret run around the house though, so she's not shocked anymore.
Something else that kind of surprised me is how OK Pepper is with loud noises, since generally any noise can spook a whole flock of chickens. I think it’s because of the “flock mentality" - if the top hen is scared, everyone else should be too, right? The only thing that scares Pepper is the vacuum cleaner, but as long as I talk to her while I’m vacuuming she’s fine. She likes to watch TV with us (Law & Order, Criminal Minds...she's a bit of a crime buff) and could care less about music - even the lawnmower isn’t scary - which just shows how adaptable and smart chickens actually are. **Update: Pepper sounds the alarm now when the UPS man brings our packages, she does not like that big brown truck.**
It's hard to believe she used to be so tiny and now she lays eggs every day
Living with Pepper has taught us so much, but there is also so much more to learn and do. Having a chicken as a pet is a huge commitment, just like getting any other pet and we were never sure how long we would have to keep her indoors, we just wanted to give her a good chance at a normal-ish life. We're hoping when it finally gets warm again, we can find Pepper a flock of her own so she can have some gal pals and never be lonely again.
If you or someone you know is thinking of keeping a chicken indoors, my advice is to think about your current lifestyle - are you someone who can handle mess or are you an organized person? I’m somewhere in-between, because I prefer to be organized but I’m a bit of a clutter-bug - I can definitely handle cleaning up. Having a pet chicken can be very messy, so make sure you have a plan on how to handle it. Chicken poop is not for the faint-hearted, so if you’ve never dealt with it before, I would consider getting some backyard flock experience before bringing a chicken into your home.
Do you have any questions about Pepper? Would you ever consider keeping a pet chicken inside? Or do you think it’s totally crazy? Let us know in the comments below!