Approved by Dr. Luqman Javed

Let’s face it, chickens are adorable. They can also be very friendly, cuddly, and entertaining. As chicken keeping grows more and more popular, it leaves many wondering if it’s okay to just raise the chickens indoors and skip out on the backyard or barnyard entirely.

While it may sound nice in theory, keeping chickens fully indoors isn’t a very good idea. Don’t get too discouraged though, you can do a little bit of raising indoors and may be able to safely let them wander into your home on occasion. In this article, we’ll take a close look into why they don’t belong as indoor pets and the circumstances that warrant bringing them in for a little while.

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The 6 Reasons Why Raising Chickens Indoors Isn’t Such a Good Idea

We’ve established that raising chickens indoors isn’t such a good idea, but why? Well, there are plenty of reasons, all of which are related to the well-being of the chickens and the functionality of the household. Let’s take a closer look:

1. It Inhibits Their Natural Behaviors

Chickens operate in flocks and establish a distinct pecking order among the flock members, which can result in a fair share of fighting amongst the group. They spend their days foraging for food, scratching at the ground to dig up any seeds or insects that suit their fancy, and enjoying the occasional dust bath.

They are very curious animals that enjoy roaming large areas and exploring the space around them. Raising them indoors is going to strip them of most of these natural behaviors, which can be very stressful for the chickens and everyone else in the household.

Black Laced Silver Wyandotte Chickens
Image Credit: J. Arnold_Shutterstock

2. Chickens Need Regular Sunlight

Chickens need sunlight to keep them in optimal health and allow for the best egg-laying ability. Just like with humans, a healthy dose of sunshine gives them vitamin D, which is necessary for metabolizing calcium for their eggs and is important for their overall well-being.

For hens to lay eggs consistently, they require around 15 to 16 hours of daily access to sunlight followed by 8 to 9 hours of darkness. Chickens also have a wake and sleep schedule that is based solely on the rising and setting of the sun; when you have them indoors you are inhibiting this schedule and taking away from their very basic needs.

Please note that if you’re taking care of a chicken indoors (for reasons we will explore later) an avian light bulb is recommended for your pet.

3. Potty Training Isn’t a Chicken’s Strong Suit

Anyone who has raised a chicken understands that they will use the bathroom anywhere and everywhere. They are not picky about where they leave their droppings. Keeping chickens indoors means that you will be cleaning up after them as a full-time job.

Chickens have very regular bowel movements, and full-grown adults will relieve themselves approximately every 30 minutes while smaller individuals will go more frequently than that. Some people have worked tirelessly to get their chickens potty trained and while some do report some anecdotal success, this isn’t a common occurrence. You would have much more luck training your chicken to wear a diaper when indoors, which is certainly doable.

a flock of chickens
Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

4. They Don’t Typically Mesh Well With Other Pets

Chickens and other household pets typically won’t mesh well. Can chickens get along well and co-exist in harmony with other domesticated pets? Sure, but there are plenty of risks involved. Not only can the presence of other household pets cause the chickens to be very fearful and stressed, but they could easily fall victim to an attack.

Dogs and cats are natural predators and chickens are easy prey. Their actions and movements could easily activate their prey drive and hunting instincts and the results could be catastrophic. Even if the other pets aren’t viewing the chicken as a prey item, they may not get along too well, and it could cause chaos in the household.

5. Chickens Are Messy, Noisy, and May Cause Damage

Chickens can get very messy and noisy when they are confined in smaller areas. If you are keeping your chickens indoors, the confinement is sure to bring up quite a bit of noise and plenty of mess to go along with it. Not only do they poop a lot, but they will scatter their bedding and their food all over the place.

They also like to scratch around, which is completely normal behavior, but it can be damaging to your floors or walls. They may not be inherently noisy animals when they are kept outdoors, but their chatter will be hard to miss when they are confined inside the home.

two Serama Chickens
Image Credit: Augustine Bin Jumat, Shutterstock

6. They Can Carry Disease

Depending on where you are and what type of property you own, it may be against the law for you to have chickens. There are a lot of cities that have laws in place that prohibit residents from owning any livestock, including chickens, within the city limits. Occasionally there will be exceptions and rules for backyard flocks (sometimes only allowed without a rooster), so it’s important to check with local laws and ordinances before committing to any type of chicken divider

Is It Ever Necessary to Bring Your Chickens Inside?

While it isn’t a good idea to raise chickens in your home, you can enjoy keeping them inside when they are baby chicks. A lot of chicken keepers will raise the little ones inside in a secure, well-established area of the home, basement, garage, or other indoor structure.

This is typically done until the chicks no longer need a heat lamp. When they are first hatched up until about 5 to 6 weeks of age, they require an external heating source because they are unable to regulate their body temperature. Once they are fully feathered, they can join the rest of the flock.

Advantages to Raising Chicks Indoors:
  • Prevents the premature death of any chicks that would not have had access to an external heat source.
  • Makes it easier and more convenient for keepers to keep up with temperature regulation.
  • Allows for constant health monitoring of all the young chicks.
  • Allows keepers to bond with the chicks and get them used to human contact, which typically results in friendlier chickens.
  • Chicks are more vulnerable to attacks from predators, and therefore, keeping them indoors might be safer.

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Caring for Injured or Disabled Chickens

Certain circumstances may warrant a chicken being raised indoors to save its life and prevent it from either falling prey to predation or the elements. If a chicken has been severely injured or has been disabled, it may need a safe, quiet space to rest and recover.

Provide the Necessary Medical Care

If you notice one of your chickens is injured, assess the damage and provide them with the proper medical care for the situation. You may want to consider calling the veterinarian if the injury is severe or if you need any assistance providing the necessary aid.

Keep Them Isolated

Not only could your injured chicken be at risk of infection or further injuring themselves, but they are much more likely to be picked off by a predator when they are vulnerable. You can bring them inside in an isolated area that is far away from foot traffic and household commotion. Find them a secure enclosure and keep it as quiet and stress-free as possible.

Consider Keeping Them Outdoors During the Day

If your chicken is well enough to join the flock, consider allowing them access to their flock during the daytime when it’s safer so they can return to some of their normal activities and get some of that much-needed sunlight.

chickens in coop
Image Credit: WFranz, Pixabay

Reintroduce to the Flock When They’re Ready

Once your chicken has fully recovered you will want to get them back to normal life. Because they’ve been absent from the flock, consider slow and supervised introductions at first. There may not be any issues reintroducing your chicken back to the flock, but it is better to err on the side of caution.

A Welcomed Houseguest

chickens on fence
Image Credit: Cparks, Pixabay

If you have certain chickens you want to spend some quality time with, there’s nothing wrong with letting them come into your home for a quick visit. You will need to be very cautious about any dangers in the house and you’ll want to be prepared to pick up any messes.

You could even try to train your favorite birds to wear a diaper when you feel like having them inside for some quality time. They’ll likely enjoy having a new environment to discover and explore and you’ll enjoy the company.

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Final Thoughts

It’s not a good idea to raise chickens indoors or try to keep them as house pets. Chickens are outdoor birds that will be stripped of their natural behaviors and need regular sunlight replacement if kept inside. It can also be quite chaotic for the household to share the home with chickens for a variety of reasons. There are certainly times when keeping chickens indoors may be necessary and beneficial, especially during their first few weeks of life or if they suffer from an injury or disability.

Featured Image Credit: Jane Nadezhina, Shutterstock