Chickens are now five times more popular as pets than hamsters

One million families go cock-a-hoop for hens: Chickens are now five times more popular as pets than hamsters

  • Number of families keeping chickens has lept compared to other traditional pets
  • The birds are said to make ‘excellent’ pets as they are interactive and friendly
  • Experts warn that before keeping chickens you should check you have the space 

When children ask for their first pet, many parents will turn to hamsters as their first port of call. But a study suggests that more families in the UK are now swapping fur for feathers as keeping chickens has soared in popularity. 

Over five million chickens are being kept in homes across Britain compared to 1.08million hamsters. And the number of households with chickens has jumped by over 200,000 since 2018 to 1.03million, according to a survey by ChickenGuard.   

It also found that most houses that own chickens have at least five hens and one cockerel. The British Hen Welfare Trust also said it was seeing a surge of interest and now rehomes 65,000 birds a year. 

These are mostly commercial hens that have come to the end of their ‘laying’ life. 

A study suggests that keeping chickens as pets is now more popular than keeping hamsters

Founder of the trust Jane Howorth MBE said: ‘The demand for hens has always grown, it’s phenomenal. Having a hobby at the bottom of the garden is good for the soul. 

‘The most common phrase that we hear is that they’re life-enriching. They are like cats and dogs with feathers. If you put the work in, it’s what you get back. 

‘You can interact with chickens exactly as you interact with cats and dogs. They’re a lot of fun – they’re very endearing, very cheeky – and will also pop out a delicious breakfast for you.’ 

Ben Braithwaite, founder of ChickenGuard which makes coop doors, said: ‘We have noticed a sudden incline in chicken keeping in the UK in the last couple of years. 

‘I am delighted to see that more and more people in the UK, especially families, are seeing the exciting and interesting benefits of keeping these wonderful birds.’ 

Mr Braithwaite’s company, based in Cambridge, produces automatic doors for chicken coops – making it easier for families to take care of their pets. 

Chicken breeder Fiona Osborne, from South Lincolnshire, said the birds make ‘excellent’ pets as they are interactive, loving and ‘very friendly’. 

But she warned that families need to think carefully about buying and must take into consideration whether they have enough space, how much noise chickens make and whether security measures are in place. 

Mrs Osborne, 48, said: ‘They’re amazing animals. There are certain breeds which are perfect for children – they’re a bit like dogs with particular types you’d love to be around your kids. I keep Buff Orpingtons as a main breed. 

Chickens are friendly and life-enriching as pets as well providing eggs for cooking

‘They are very large birds, very curious, very friendly and they are enormous. 

‘They are amazing pets. They adopt you as part of their flock. Every morning the chickens just follow me around like little lost puppies. They prefer to eat from my hands than their feeders.’ 

Mrs Osborne added that the birds are a perfect pet for children aged seven and above. A handful of celebrities have kept chickens as pets, includ ing actresses Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston. 

Miss Roberts previously said she likes raising heritage chickens because she enjoys the fresh eggs. 

In an interview in 2014, she said: ‘We live in a world where really fresh produce and organic food are a financial luxury, so if we have that luxury I’m going to take advantage of it.’ 

And Jennifer Aniston kept chickens as pets with her exhusband Justin Theroux when they bought a home in Bel Air, California in 2012. 

She previously said she brought eggs as party gifts for friends. 

Reese Witherspoon also keeps chickens as pets. She raises 20 hens and a rooster on her ranch in California. Her chickens even made an appearance at her ranch wedding in 2011.

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