Bigger is Better: Advice from one chicken keeper to another
I’ve been raising chickens for close to six years now. Compared to some, that’s a long time, and compared to others, that’s nothing. But, nevertheless, I have learned countless lessons throughout my years of chicken keeping. Lessons regarding things I should not have done, lessons regarding things I should have done differently, and lessons regarding things I should have done again or done better. It is because of one of these distinct lessons that I’m writing this article to share with you. A lesson I’m glad I learned and shall do my best to never repeat again. The lesson that: it is never smart to get just two chickens.
Now, obviously, I need to give some explanation on my stance on this. Of course you’ve probably heard about the guideline that it’s not good to buy and raise one chicken by itself. Chickens are social creatures. Even if you intend to raise a chicken as a pet, it still is best if the bird has a friend or two of its own kind. When I first started raising chickens, I ordered five 5-day-old chicks from my local farm store. But, the employees messed up the order and, in order to receive the breeds I wanted, I had to buy one chick one day and the other four a few days later. Believe me when I tell you that those couple days with just the one chick were not pretty. As long as there was daylight, all you heard was crying from this poor chick. Even though I carried her with me in my pocket and spent every free moment with her, she still desperately craved the company of her own kind. As soon as I brought the other four chicks home, she was as content as can be. However, because there was an uneven number of chicks and none other of her same breed, she was still “alone”, so to speak. And to this day, she is still my loner hen. But she has the company of the other flock members, which is what she wanted and lacked in the first place.
Three years ago, I decided to add to my flock. But because of limited space, I could only get two or three more birds. And that’s when I made the mistake of getting TWO. As you can imagine, with no other birds to be with, two chickens have no choice but to bond with one another. Despite the fact that I trained the two of them to be friendly and comfortable around people, I could not help the fact that they grew to be such close buddies. When I added them to the old flock, they were both put on the bottom of the pecking order next to each other. Now, after three years, the pecking order has changed a lot and the two are not the best of friends anymore. But, they have bonded with other flock members and still prefer each other over me.
When I raised the five chicks, two of them really bonded with each other. Then, there was the loner. While the other two were the same breed and are still best buddies to this day, one of them, Gracie, really bonded with me. When I would sit with them, the others would peck at the grass around me, but Gracie would sit on my lap and preen my hair. She preferred the company of me to the company of her flock mates. And to this day, she still prefers sitting in my lap then scampering around the yard.
Now, before I go on, I’d like to make a disclaimer: All of this happened with me wanting tame birds. I took the time to create bonds with each of my hens and get them used to me. They are all very friendly now. They can be picked up and held. But, only Gracie BEGS for it. Some people might not want to have a friendly flock, and if that’s the case, then this article will not be helpful for you. I’m writing to advise those looking to have a tame flock but also are contemplating getting just two birds. Also, this is just my experience. If you raised two chickens and had a different outcome, then that is great too!
So, with all my backstory and disclaimer aside, here are the four main things I learned about raising two chickens at a time:
1.) Your chances of having one particularly tame bird are highly reduced
When you make the decision to buy two chickens, you essentially are giving up the fantasy of having a lap-loving pet. While, as previously stated, you do need to give your chickens their own kind for companionship, if you buy more than two, your chances of having one or more birds that really bond with you, go up. But, with just two birds, you, as the caretaker, are placed on the backburner. Remember that you can still successfully tame your birds, even if there are two of them. They just won’t see you as their priority to bond with.
2.) Odd numbers are your best friend
As I quickly discovered with my two chickens versus my five, odd numbers usually result in tamer birds. Using Gracie as an example again, she had the company of other birds but also didn’t have tunnel vision for only bonding with one other bird. She bonded with me over her feathered friends because she had the choice. Your chances of having a bird like this are increased with higher numbers of chickens. Also, it shouldn’t be a huge problem if you purchase a large even amount of chickens. Just as long as the birds have the option to bond with you over their significant other, if you will, your intentions of having tame chickens shouldn’t be harmed.
3.) Things aren’t going to change as they age
As was the case with my two chickens, when the pecking order changed and, they grew apart, they didn’t make me their new best friend. Rather, they just turned their attention to another flock member. Once the idea of bonding with another bird and not with you is engrained in a chicken’s brain, your hopes of having a singular tame bird, will pretty much be gone for good. Old habits die hard.
4.) It’s not hopeless
With all of this being said, I do not mean to discourage you. It is still 100% possible to achieve a tame flock, even if that includes them being friendlier towards each other than they are towards you. Don’t get me wrong: my flock is plenty tame. All of the chickens allow me to hold them, cuddle them, pet them, etc. They follow me around the yard and beg for treats. But, none of them compare to the bond Gracie and I share. I can honestly say that I think Gracie would make a better house pet than she would anything else. But, even she still craves the company of her flock members. She wants to be doing what they are doing, eating what they are eating, and investigating what they are investigating.
Therefore, all this goes to say that if you purchase friendly breeds and put work into taming them, you will still, most likely, have a very docile flock. But, I also wanted to share this lesson with you so that you can avoid this potential problem if you have the same desires for a friendly flock as I did.
Overall, chickens bond with their own kind before they do with people. This is their natural instinct and no one can change that. With that being said however, chickens are curious, domestic creatures that don’t take a ton of work to tame. And, one of the best things that can make the taming process easier, is by not raising just two chickens and by keeping the odd numbers in mind. Good luck on your chicken raising adventures!
Below are some links further explaining how to actually tame chickens. Thanks for reading!