Is It Cruel to Keep One Chicken?

Chickens are highly social animals who need to be with their birds of a feather. 

Many chicken owners look down on those who leave their birds all out there with no other hens. 

You may be wondering what to do if you find yourself with a lone chicken.

Like many bird species, chickens live in flocks with complex social hierarchies and relationships. A chicken living without others of its kind will become lonely, leading to declining health and alarming behaviors. Keeping a chicken by itself should be avoided. 

Next, we’ll cover why chickens should not be kept by themselves, how to spot an unhappy chicken, and what your next steps should be if you have only a single chicken. 

Keep reading for helpful tips and information. 

is it cruel to keep one chicken

Can You Have Only One Chicken? 

Humans have a long history of misunderstanding animals’ emotions and assuming they don’t experience the same ones we do. 

Despite chickens’ reputation as less intelligent animals, they experience and exhibit emotional and social behaviors.

While nothing legally stops you from having only a single chicken, it’s not in the best interest of your feathery friend. 

Chickens are naturally flock birds, and keeping only one deprives them of necessary social interactions. 

Like us, chickens develop relationships and even friendships with each other. 

They play a pivotal role in the healthy development of baby chicks and the healthy social lives of adults. 

A chicken kept by itself will experience reduced egg production and negative impacts to her normal lifespan of 5 to 10 years. 

If you are looking to start keeping backyard chickens, get a flock of at least three. 

This way, they’ll have two friends to keep each other company. 

A flock of two also works, but it’s recommended to have more because of these birds’ natural social community hierarchy.

Do Chickens Get Lonely?

Yes, chickens get lonely! 

They crave social interaction and friendships with other chickens. 

Think back to the last time you spent a significant amount of time without seeing another human. 

How long did it take for you to become lonely?

These birds feel the same way when they live a solitary life. 

Just like us, their emotional and physical health requires socialization with others. 

A flock has a social hierarchy of chickens and assigned roles when kept together. 

The head hen or leader will boss around the other chickens, and chickens will create friendships. 

They bathe, roost, and sun together. 

Additionally, you will find them nesting, laying eggs, and raising their chicks together as a community. 

One hen’s behavior can affect others in the flock of chickens. 

For instance, one hen laying eggs can lead to the other hens laying. 

Unhappy Chicken Behavior

Lonely chickens may exhibit signs of self-harm and other negative psychological behavior. 

They are known to pick at their feathers when lonely or sick, creating ruffled, puffed out, or missing feathers. 

Unhappy chickens will also stay cooped up. 

They won’t run around or participate in their usual activities because they have no one to keep them company in their solitary existence.

A sad chicken may also let out sounds similar to crying or whimpering. 

This happens especially in cases of loss or grief. 

Happy Chicken Behavior

A happy, healthy chicken will lay eggs regularly throughout the week, run around outside, scratch for food, and spend time in the sun instead of holed up in the chicken coop. 

Happy chickens also trill or make purring noises when going about their day.

The happiest chicken is one kept with fellow chickens. 

One kept by itself may exhibit happy behavior, but it will decrease as time goes on. 

What Do You Do When You Only Have One Chicken Left? 

If you start with a flock, the entire flock will not all live the same length of time. 

After a few years, your numbers will potentially drop due to illness, predators, or other unfortunate situations. 

Your flock will eventually decrease to a lone chicken if you do not replenish your chickens during this time. 

Get More Chickens

The best thing for an individual chicken is getting a new flock. 

Your new domestic birds don’t have to be the same chicken breed as you already have, but they should have the same basic temperament. 

A group of more aggressive chickens may not be the best fit if your lone chicken is a docile breed like Buff Orpington. 

Give Her Away

Maybe your chicken-keeping days are over because you’re moving, there are too many predators in your area, or it is time to stop keeping a backyard family. 

Find someone with an existing flock who will take your hen, or talk to friends and family about starting to keep chickens. 

It will be sad saying goodbye to your feathered friend, but she will be much happier living with her own kind. 

Bring Her Inside

Sometimes we get too attached to our pets to give them away. 

Although they are not typically house pets, chickens can live inside. 

Create a cozy roosting area for your chicken and let her be part of your daily life in the house. 

Give her fun bird toys to amuse herself with. 

A happy chicken needs stimulation and something to do. 

Keep in mind a chicken’s social life won’t be replaced by humans, unlike cats and dogs. 

Can I Keep a Rooster by Himself? 

Roosters and hens have different temperaments but the same social needs. 

A rooster will also get lonely by himself. 

Just like a single chicken, a lonely rooster’s best course of action is to get him friends or give him away. 

However, a rooster should not be brought inside the house as a family pet. 

Roosters’ more aggressive nature does not mesh well with domestic life, especially if you have cats or dogs in the house. 

These social animals prefer their own kind over your furry friends. 

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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