Chicken Psychology 101: Solo Chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Mischief, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. Mischief

    Mischief In the Brooder

    Aug 4, 2018
    Finally, I'm posting my first topic! It's kind of a weird question, too, and I wasn't sure where to put it. I'm sorry if this is the wrong place! I'll delete it and move to the proper section if it is!

    Anyway, on to the meat of the matter- I know chickens are flock animals, and I've read countless times about how they always, always, always do better with friends and buddies. I've heard the rule is that, for people who can't have a big flock, to buy 3 chickens at a time so that when one inevitably ends up dying first, two remain and continue to keep each other company so that a solo remaining chicken doesn't up and die from sadness.

    Which, sorta doesn't make sense to me, since of those remaining two, one's also just gonna die first- er, but that would give you time to potentially acquire another third chicken to replace the deceased before anyone gets too depressed, maybe?

    But, anyway! I've also heard stories about solo chickens, usually a dedicated housepet-type situation, in which a chicken ends up not only not really knowing what to do when put into the company of other chickens, but seems to vastly prefer human company. Granted, these seemed to be much rarer stories- but then, maybe people attempting to own solo chickens is also rarer?

    I posted this in the "Managing Your Flock" section because that's basically what I really need to do! I'm moving into a house with a positively microscopic backyard- it exists, but only just. I'm somewhat in love with the idea of a house chicken, since we more or less had one for some time after the aforementioned trio of chickens left a very lonely solo hen behind. Bringing her inside for extra company and love perked her back up after a while, and she's still actually clucking to this day- my mother keeps her in the garage mostly, allowing for daily backyard exercise and occasional indoor stints when she acts a bit mopey.

    She's a bit large for an all-the-time indoor chicken is the thing... does that really count as an inside chicken, if she's technically in the garage to sleep, coop up, eat, drink, and so on? Does the garage actually count as inside?

    Oh, whoops, I'm really good at rambling- I think more or less, the real focus of this topic should be this; if raised by hand from hatching as a solo chicken, mostly kept close to a human companion, and very much for all intents and purposes being a 'pet' chicken, do you think a solo chicken is a reasonable idea? Can a human substitute in as a chicken's "flock"?

    More than anything, I want my chicken to be happy and healthy, and silly as it might sound, I do believe in the mental well-being of chickens. If I get too many negative responses on raising a solo chicken, I may end up trying to allow for a pair, if I can... I do feel a little iffy about managing that, though. Ultimately, if it isn't good for the animal, I'll refuse to do it.

    If you think a solo chicken is doable, breed temperament is also a consideration of mine! Which breeds might take to that sort of lifestyle the best, in your opinions? My highest considerations currently were bantams and seramas due both to their generally friendly natures, and their tiny(manageable) size! A tiny chicken for a tiny yard.

    Sorry for the long-winded post, and thank you in advance for your consideration!
  2. Rysktal

    Rysktal Songster

    I'm sure you will get a lot of responses.

    I had a house chicken twice because of various circumstances, in my experience, they were much happier once we found them other chickens and they lived mostly outside again.

    Even a solo chicken makes a lot of dust and a lot of noise...and no, in my experience, as fun as it is to have a chicken sit on your feet and watch TV with you, a human cannot replace the flock that a chicken wants.

    I would definitely seek out a pair of bantams instead of a solo chicken.

    Good luck!!
  3. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

    Jul 31, 2018
    Catalonia, Spain
    My Coop
    Don't keep single chickens.
    I'm sorry if this isn't what you want to read.
    Chick-N-Fun, BlackHackle and Mischief like this.
  4. Mischief

    Mischief In the Brooder

    Aug 4, 2018
    Thank you for your help! I do have a couple of questions about your house chickens.
    About your house chickens, were they brought inside after having been outside first?
    How large were they/what breed were they?
    And, were they hatched with other chickens, and used to living with them already?

    Because of the negative responses then, I'm considering a pair or none. I absolutely would not want to keep them outside, and because of my uncertainty in managing 2 little wayward wanderers, I think I'll have to give up on chickens. I feel like it's probably completely doable, but at the same time, I don't want to take even a tiny gamble with an animal's well-being. It's a shame, I really do miss them.

    It really isn't what I want to to read- I'd like to read about the specifics as to why you have this conviction! I assume by default it's the general rule of- people always have chickens in flocks, ergo we always see chickens do better in flocks because it is all the chickens we ever see tend to know. Chickens, being creatures of habit, after growing up with a flock will never do well, or at least as well, by themselves. I've heard the rarer stories too of the opposite though, in which chickens raised alone seem happy as any other chicken, but just don't care to be with other chickens, since it isn't what they grew up knowing. Integrating these solo chickens into a flock is apparently a nightmare, and the chicken seems like it'd just be much happier if let to live alongside the humans where it wants to be.

    I'm extremely sure there's an instinct argument in here ripe for the picking, though!
    The Farmers' Daughter likes this.
  5. Rysktal

    Rysktal Songster

    One was a silkie and one was a bantam. So both pretty small. Both under the circumstance of losing their other flock mates.

    Honestly, the quality of life for an indoor chicken is pretty crappy. Just don't do it, even if you have 2 of them.

    There are plenty of other birds you could keep in a house. What about quail? Ive seen some cool set ups for a trio of quail. (Though even as I type that...I'm thinking there is no way I would bring my quail into the house, haha!)

    How about a hamster? ;)

    ETA: I just recently kept two freshly hatched chicks in my house (Mama hen didn't have any interest in raising them) for almost a month. Even being hand raised by loving humans, they were not thriving at all. Now they live outside where they can scratch and adventure and are doing really well. Chickens need to be chickens!
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  6. Mischief

    Mischief In the Brooder

    Aug 4, 2018
    I don't like rodents, really. I just don't inherently click with their behaviors like I do with birds.

    When you say the quality of indoor life is crappy, why is it so? Can a routine and setup not be managed in a healthy ideal way, at all? I had honed in on seramas and bantam also because I'd heard from a friend of mine they were often kept as housepets where he originally came from. I had been planning an entire series of things around making a house chicken's life ideal- I kinda wanted to talk about those theories, too, even if I don't end up getting to use any! It's a bit fun to speculate.

    I had also been looking into quail, since they're tiny ground-based birds. I don't have any first-hand experience with them, though! Button quail are ridiculously adorable though. They're very tempting-!
  7. Rysktal

    Rysktal Songster

    I did edit my post, in case you missed it.

    Button quail are adorable and I actually know people who keep them indoor as pets. With dirt and plants and bugs too.
  8. Mischief

    Mischief In the Brooder

    Aug 4, 2018
    I did miss it! Whoops! I see, but I'm curious about how they were kept inside. Were they kept in a box only? I know the idea of house chickens often bring to mind really sad ideas of chickens kept in cages for copious amounts of time, but that's not how chickens biologically are built to function, and I completely understand this.

    The idea I'd had for a house chicken was copious amounts of free-roam both inside the house and outside by utilization of a cloth cat-flap that leads into a little covered chicken run outside for scratch and play as much as they want during the daytime. The cloth is soft enough that, once shown they can, a chicken will still walk through it, but it keeps flying insects out. I'd also planned on bringing the chicken with me via chicken leash while I garden, both for the goodies dug up and the fun of it all.

    I'd never ever let a small animal of any sort free range around here, as we have hawks. These hawks have apparently made off with small dogs, much larger in size and heavier in weight than a serama or bantam, to be sure! Yikes. Besides this, I'm sure we've got stray/indoor-outdoor cats in the area, along with whatever other random wildlife lurks beyond the garden fence. I'm a hopeless worrywart.

    The inside would feature a sort of quarantine/quick cleanup area for when the chicken decides it wants to tool around in the house for a while- a quick place to wipe their feet clean and apply the somewhat controversial chicken diaper, then let them wander, play with indoor chicken toys, roost in their cage or hang out with whichever humans are around. We used this setup now and then for various reasons- chickens tend to make it known when they'd like to go back outside again.

    At this point, you're probably thinking- good grief, why not just have the chickens outdoors at all that extra hassle anyway? It's because I'm crazy! lol

    But, I deeply respect the expertise the people of this forum have regarding chickens in all walks of life, so as it stands I'm not going to be doing house chickens until some actual very solid proof crops up of how it can be managed ideally for the chicken, if it can be managed ideally for the chicken at all.
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    My idea of house chickens involves a spacius ~ 100 ft^2 linoleum floor with a roost and a box with hay for scratching through and dust bathing. Additionally, feeders located at various locations would have small amounts of coarse particulate eats. Then the bird would get interaction time at least daily and possibly time to explore the house. When I have had a game hen as a "house chicken", she could also get in and out of house via a bedroom window.

    Care must be taken to not always assume the worst. It is easy to imagine someone investing on one chicken more than many people invest in a typical cat or dog.
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  10. Rysktal

    Rysktal Songster

    Sounds like you've put a lot of thought into it.

    If you're giving them a great habitat inside and outdoor space and you don't mind the upkeep/daily cleaning, maybe it's for you!

    There is worry about the dander chicken make and breathing it in being bad for your lungs. I forget what it's called- there is a word for that illness.

    Hens can and will crow at 5am, just FYI ;)
    Mischief likes this.

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