I began raising chickens primarily for their eggs, but over the years, I’ve also grown fond of caring for them and learning about their many different breeds and varieties - Martha Stewart
While they might not be top of your list of desirable animal companions, chickens are surprisingly good company.
While they won’t play fetch, go for long walks on hot summer afternoons or curl up on your lap after a saucer of milk, chickens are some of life’s great eccentrics and they march to the beat of their own drum, regardless of what is going on, or happening around them.
Life is never boring or dull when you’re in the company of chickens, and while it might sometimes be frustrating and they might drive you to distraction, the rewards that go hand in hand with keeping chickens far outweigh any of the misconceived negative aspects of caring for them.
In fact, chickens are incredibly easy to look after and are famous for being a low maintenance charge who you really only need to spend ten minutes or so a day with.
And feeding them couldn’t be easier, as they’re happy to subsist on a diet of grain and corn, and as long as they’re fed and watered, they don’t really need much more from you.
One of the main reasons why chickens are so appealing is that you don’t need to own a ranch or a farm to keep them, and providing you’ve got a relatively large yard or garden and are prepared to invest in the right equipment that you’ll need to provide them with shelter and living space, you’ll be more than able to keep a flock of chickens.
Then there are the other benefits of keeping chickens.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking about all of the fresh eggs that will be waiting for you day in and day out, and while it’s true that you’ll never run out of eggs while chickens are living on your property, if you keep enough of the birds, you’ll also be able to sell the eggs that you don’t use and earn a few dollars to put toward the modest, and frankly low, cost of their upkeep.
Chickens are also one of nature’s great providers, as their waste is a devastatingly good fertilizer, which you can use to start growing your own vegetables and food, and even share with some of your neighbors and friends and encourage them to do the same.
Granted, it’s not the best smelling fertilizer that you can use, but as it's free, what it smells like shouldn’t be an issue as long as it does what it's supposed to and chicken poop is remarkably good at giving vegetables a little push and helping them to grow.
Last, but by no means least, while a lot of already enamored chicken keepers might tell you about the feelings of peace and serenity that they’re overcome by whenever they spend any time with their chickens, it’s something that we’ve never experienced.
If you do, that’s just another tick in the big book of why chickens are cool, but as far as we’re concerned, the fact that they make us laugh every single day with their outrageous and often baffling behavior is reason enough to give them a well-deserved home.
And the fact that they’re so easy to keep is just the icing on the hen-shaped cake.
Is It Cruel To Keep One Chicken?
Chickens are like people, some like the company of others, and some don’t care for it all, which means that you can keep a single bird, but whether or not that bird will be happy and content is another matter entirely.
While some chickens might not like the company of other birds and won’t revel in it, they do need it. They are, after all a social animal that fares better in a pack, or in the case of chickens’ flock, environment.
The general consensus among chicken people is that if you want your chickens to thrive, you need at least three in order for them to establish the complex social hierarchy that they need to prosper.
Interaction and being able to rely on other members of their flock for warmth and security are invaluable to a chicken’s mental and physical well-being, and can, and does discourage them from feather plucking and other acts of self-harm that animal psychologists believe are rooted in their need to be part of a group environment and belong to a flock.
So, yes you can keep a single chicken and it isn’t cruel to do so, but any chicken that you do keep will be much healthier and happy if it’s part of a flock or group.
As De La Soul once sang, if you want your chickens to live the best life they possibly can, three is the magic number of birds that you’ll need to keep.
What Do I Need To Know Before Getting Chickens?
Believe it or not, chickens need stimulation and they hate being locked up in confined spaces, which means that you’ll need to create a chicken run that’s large enough for them to move around in and, even though they don’t really fly, has enough room for them to spread their wings.
And you’ll need to enclose that run in chicken wire to stop them from getting out and prevent everything else from getting in. Humans aren’t the only creatures that like to eat chicken, almost every other animal does too, so you’ll need to keep your chickens safe from predators.
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a rooster. Hens will lay eggs whether or not a male bird is present, and while they’ll usually lay an egg a day, during Fall and Winter when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, a lot of hens won’t lay at all.
Don’t worry, it’s just part of nature’s grand design, and as soon as the days start getting longer again, your chickens will start laying again.
And the only other thing that you need to know about these wonderful birds, is that chickens are not, no matter what you might have heard, difficult to keep.