Why Your Chicken Doesn’t Need a Stupid Sweater

Why’d the chicken cross the road?  Because its lunatic owner was trying to force it into a f&*$@ng cardigan. Before you force your chickens head through a mock turtleneck, learn why your chicken doesn’t need to wear a sweater.  

Three chickens in a row sitting on a dowel, each wearing a primary coloured sweater.

There’s a reason The Gap only has Gap Kids and not Gap Chickens.  There’s no need to put a sweater on a chicken and here’s why.

  1. Chickens aren’t people.
  2. Chickens aren’t dogs.
  3. Chickens aren’t toilet paper rolls.
  4. Chickens aren’t tea pots.
  5. Chickens are covered in that stuff your really expensive winter coat and duvet are made of.
  6. Chickens think you have bad taste.
  7. Chickens have dignity. Except when eating their own poop.
  8. Chickens are bullies. And cannibals.
  9. Re: #8, If a chicken bullies another chicken for wearing a sweater they won’t just laugh at them or trip them behind the chicken run.  They’ll eat their face off.
  10. Chickens need their faces.

As it stands, at this very moment, I’m down to two chickens. Mable and Josephine, a crotchety pair of half-sister spinsters who spend their days passing judgement on anyone who walks by them. I’m kind of waiting for these two to gently pass away in the night before I get a whole new batch of chickens.

They’re both turning 7 this year. Why are they living so long? Because I don’t humanize them. I mean other than when I kiss them and ask them if they had a good sleep.  Instead of treating them as if they’re humans I do something even BETTER.  I treat them like chickens. 

Yes they’re pet chickens, but they’re still chickens. 

For the past decade the only thing that’s been more popular than calligraphy or Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest …   are chicken sweaters.  Every week at this time of year I get at least one Tweet, Facebook post or email about a chicken sweater.  Mostly from people who don’t have chickens.  

These are the people who are fascinated by and love chicken sweaters, mainly because they don’t completely understand a few things about chickens.  Like the fact that if you gathered up 6 chickens  and sewed them together they’d be a duvet.

Chickens don’t need knit sweaters to stay warm. Do NOT.


Chickens romping in the snow wearing knit capes.

I understand a chicken in a knit cape is kindda pretty.  So let’s get that out of the way.


White silkie chicken wearing a brown and red knit vest.

A Silkie in a vest? Yeah, kindda cute in an Emo way.

Chicken in a multicoloured, knit sweater-vest.

This is not where I disagree with you. I think they look cute. Chickens seem to have an innate ability to appear distinguished even while wearing something that would look humiliating on any other bird.



A white chicken stands on a bale of straw wearing a yellow knit jumper with a matching floppy hat.

Matching hats on the other hand? Not even a chicken can give that look any dignity. Seriously. If this gal had opposable thumbs she would use them to pop her owner’s eyes out.

A grey knit chicken sweater with lace embellishment.

(note: I didn’t link to any photo sources because my point isn’t to call out anyone who makes or sells chicken sweaters … it’s to let the world know a chicken doesn’t need a sweater)

Should chickens wear sweaters?

NO!  So what’s the number one, actual reason you shouldn’t put a sweater on a chicken?  

A sweater will make a chicken colder.

Chickens are kind of geniuses at regulating their own body temperature.  Their temperatures can go from 105 F to 109 F depending on what they need any given day.  When it’s cold out they instinctively eat more which, through digestion, raises their temperature.  They shiver, huddle and most importantly fluff out their feathers when they’re cold.

Fluffing their feathers is the most effective thing a chicken can do to keep itself warm.  They puff up all their feathers and down to create a big duvet of insulation around them.


Blue Copper Marans with her feathers fluffed up on her body and head to keep her warm at night.

She wasn’t terribly cold, but you can see Mabel’s feathers fluffed up a bit as she gets ready to hunker down for bed tonight.  You can especially see it in the feathers on her head.

Putting a sweater on them stops them from being able to do that.  So no matter how cold they are or how hard they try, they can’t puff their feathers out which are restricted by the stupid sweater.

Chickens also produce more moisture through their skin when they’re trying to raise their body temperature.  If you add a sweater to that chicken, the moisture gets stuck between the sweater and the chicken and yet again, makes the chicken colder.

As far as battery chickens, which seems to be where this rage started, they have no need for sweaters either. Battery chickens are the ones that come from battery cages and have often lost their feathers.  

They’re miserable, sad, little creatures that sometimes have their feathers plucked out by themselves and other birds.  This results in a naked little chicken.  Once they’re adopted into a hen rescue, the owner of the naked chicken wants to give this little abused hen the absolute best life they possibly can from now on. So they shove the already indignant hen into a knit sweater. 

Which the chicken hates.

Once a chicken loses its feathers due to a moult or trauma it will almost immediately start feathering out again, which can be a painful process.  

  • Having a knit or even hand crocheted sweater on it during this time will only irritate and hurt the chicken’s little pin feathers.  If you happen to come across a completely bald chicken in the middle of a winter snow storm you’d be better off bringing it into a mudroom or something similar.  Nowhere that’s actually hot, just less cold than the winter storm.
  • Chickens also have a surprisingly difficult time taking their sweaters off when they want to have a bath.
  • Even in the winter chickens keep themselves clean from mites and other pests with dust baths. If you provide them with a dust bath in their coop they’ll use that, if not, they’ll scratch and burrow into their bedding.  They can’t effectively do either of those things while wearing a turtleneck.

Neither could you.

And THAT is why chickens don’t need a sweater.

If you want to keep your chickens warm in winter read my guide on How to Winterize a Chicken Coop.

If you want to read about why I’m one of the few people NOT looking for Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest, read this. 

If you’re still not convinced that you shouldn’t put your chicken in a sweater do me a favour – get a notepad, go outside and start tallying how many frozen blocks of sparrows you see dropping from the sky.  And how many of them out and about are wearing an argyle jumper.

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Why Your Chicken Doesn\'t Need a Stupid Sweater


  1. Jess says:

    Hilarious post Karen :-D
    But I do hope that people read this and take it to heart. What will be the next thing….?

  2. Pamela Pruitt says:

    Well, I am one of those people that sent you chicken sweater pictures. Mostly because I thought they were cute and you have chickens. I too have had chickens but it was many many years ago and I lived in south Georgia. Thats Georgia in the US, not the USSR.

    My chickens were way too hot for sweaters, being in south GA, so I just crocheted them tiny bikinis and Speedos. Of course, this was before Pinterest, so no one ever got to see them. And I don’t have pictures, so you’ll have to use your imagination. :-)


  3. Yolanda Tomas says:

    I don’t know why people think they should dress up animals. I’ve seen owners bring their dogs to the dog park with sweaters then get upset when it gets torn and dirty when the dogs play together. It’s like asking for your friend to get beaten up in the playground.

  4. Leslie Best says:

    Hilarious and informative. Thanks Karen!

  5. Monika says:

    How about a down vest? Just another idea to keep the chickens warm….

  6. Jeannieb says:

    Had to look at the calendar. Thought maybe it was April 1st.

  7. Chris says:

    Thank you for that dose of reality. I once used a chicken apron because my rooster had ripped all the feathers off one of the hens’ backs and it was getting scratched and sunburned. Later, a friend saw that my hen had gotten caught in the fence by one of the elastics around the wing that held the apron on. Luckily we were able to free her before she damaged her wing or died. No more chicken aprons, no matter how well-intentioned!!

  8. Jennie Lee says:

    Very educational. And funny. Thank you.

  9. janpartist says:

    I have never seen such a thing. I don’t have chickens but I would have thought how is the chicken going to fluff and stuff, so it seems like common sense to me. Some grown women need to stop playing “Barbie” with everything.

  10. Denise Leavens says:

    Most chickens are naturally so beautiful.
    Really beautiful.
    I see the sweater as something that detracts from that beauty. I just don’t get it, the whole chicken sweater appeal. I’m very confused.

  11. judy says:

    Also little dogs in clothing..and no Halloween costumes. I know to us they look cute and funny but the small dogs of my relatives posted on FB in really complicated Halloween suits.on their little heads and with weird back parts that make them look un dog like seems to me to be cruel and unheeding of the look of panic on their faces. they look up at the camera like WTF????? Excuse the vulgarity but they do and when they are already darling why subject them to an experience that must be really uncomfortable if not downright painful.

    • Jo says:

      I have a friend that has two sweet little shitzu dogs. She has knitted several sweaters for them and they are cute wearing them when they go for walks. Living in MN they wouldn’t be able to go for walks when it’s 3° out not wearing something for warmth. They could go for longer walks if they’d wear boots. So there are exceptions to some rules.

  12. Gretchen Sexton says:

    OK OK. I’m sorry I ever said a chicken in a sweater was cute.
    Never. again.

  13. Cindy says:

    Hahaha! Hilarious and informational. Good to know Karen.

  14. Tigersmom says:

    Chickens may not need sweaters, but I needed to see this pics of how cute/ridiculous they look in them. ; )

  15. Liz says:

    the yellow sweater and hat ensemble is horrifying…

  16. Ruth says:

    You tell ’em Karen! Silly folk. Smh.

    But let’s talk about that pizza in a mason jar though– clearly, I don’t visit Pinterest regularly enough because I’ve never seen that mess. All I have to say is: WHY. (No question mark. Just. WHY.)

  17. NinaMargoJune says:

    Sigh. Karen, everyone who makes and sells them on etsy should be required to read your column. There are so many much better things to use crochet and knitting skills for… Mittens to donate to the homeless, comforters for babies born to women in prison…

  18. Sandy says:

    Thank you for this post, Karen. Hopefully people will share this so others can be educated on this subject.

  19. Linda says:

    Thank you Karen for inserting some sanity into the world. The lack of ability to fluff feathers was what first struck me when I saw a chicken sweater. Doh!

  20. Theresa clarkson farrell says:

    Remember reading eons ago ( i saved the Article for years but now…?) in the NYT. about a small restaurant in new hampshire? vermont? anyway one thing they did was create a coop that was attached to a greenhouse – in the cold months they funneled/filtered/shared the heat generated by the chickens into the greenhouse. they even had a equation for how much heat was generated per chicken! they apparently had hot house tomatoes year round and the vines were so well established the they were as thick as your wrist ( well some one’s wrist). obviously this made quite an impression on me as I’ve remembered it after all these years – so just one more example of why chickens do not need sweaters – as to pizza in a mason jar- well WHY? and then yuck.

  21. Kelly says:

    I’m glad there’s someone else out there willing to call stupid, “stupid”. I think we’re all sick of the stupid. I like Pinterest but a lot of things on there are just that. The lastest: salad in a mason jar. Things are hard enough getting out of a mason jar, nevermind friggin’ salad.

    And yes, chickens don’t need sweaters.

  22. Beckie says:

    Just when you think you’ve seen everything.

    I don’t believe cats need costumes either. I will concede a dog can sometimes use a jacket/sweater outside, but at no other time.

    Horses seem to enjoy a blanket.

    But…animals, in general, just don’t need to be “dressed”.

    The chickens do look sweet in their sweaters, though lol

    • Danie says:

      Some dogs in particular have anxiety issues that are improved by wearing sweaters or t-shirts while indoors. The Thundershirt is a piece of dog “clothing” that wraps the animal snugly and helps it feel safe and less anxious. So not all dog indoor clothing is tacky or mean. Sometimes it helps!

      • Dale says:

        I’ve had experience with dogs and thunder anxiety. We had a Labrador that was outside giving a # 2 when a HUGE thunder bolt crashed. Duke came screaming off the yard to get into the house. Couldn’t get him to go outside for a week!!

  23. Jamieson says:

    Oy, people be crazy. Well crafted (and funny as always) explanation, Karen! I’ll be reciting this to baffled strangers in bars – à propos of nothing – for years to come.

  24. JaneWT says:

    Too many daft townies that’s the problem – I was talking to someone who said they thought farmers were cruel leaving sheep out in the rain as they may catch cold (I only sighed – too many things wrong with that statement to even start) – and this was in the summer – idiot – why do we have to make every living creature have human traits? Do we not have enough ‘challenged’ humans? Next we will be talking about radicalised cows – all I can say is lucky these creatures don’t have opposable thumbs – other wise we’d all be the creak without a paddle!!!

  25. Ryn says:

    This sounds like the not so bright people who think it’d be “cute” to put my Siberian husky in a sweater. He’s a husky, he doesn’t need it. He always has a fluffy sweater on.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      Great, well said Ryan. Some people think that God didn’t know what He was doing when He created animals. They should use some of that wasted time reading the Bible.

  26. Jenny W says:

    I get easily sidetracked:
    Don’t put chickens in sweaters
    Put them in your mudroom
    Karen has a mudroom
    What does Karen’s mudroom look like?
    Are there sweaters in there?
    Can we see your mudroom?
    New post idea, for mudroom decor/organization/renovation or a chilly chicken photo shoot :)

  27. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Since I saw my first chicken sweater, I’ve thought they were incredibly stupid. I’ve thought of all the reasons you list AND: Have they ever considered how nasty, filthy, gross that cute little sweater will be by the end of one day of being sported by a chicken who lives any kind of chicken life?! Are they going to provide the hens with laundry facilities? Maybe a laundry service? Good Grief!
    I cannot imagine anyone cruel enough to actually think a chicken should dress like a human.

    Thank you for enumerating the real reasons these stupid things are actually harmful! I hope you’ve rocked their world.

  28. Kathleen says:

    Why do I get the impression that chicken sweaters / chickens wearing sweaters really ticks you off?
    I have just had such a good laugh – at your post and the comments too! You have made my day! Thank you. (Again!)

  29. Marna says:

    I think the whole thing is so funny! I know that people do have exotic parrots that do where the sweaters because they pulled out their feathers, but I don’t think the feathers always grow back on them. I could see it for that, but for chickens? I saw the post about the shop, it does say nothing found. I clicked several things and all said not found.

  30. Sande says:

    Just an FYI, I think something might be going on with the SHOP section – could be it’s unique to me or just temporary or not a concern but thought I’d mention it.
    When I hit the SHOP tab, this is what I saw and it showed ” no product found” for all the categories.


    No products were found matching your selection.

    • Karen says:

      HI Sande! No, it’s not just you, lol. When I had my site redesigned I wanted to make sure there was a shop section for a few of my favourite things and the workshops I give and live online courses. I just haven’t had time to get it all organized yet. ~ karen!

  31. LuAnn says:

    I personally would NEVER put any animals into sweaters that they haven’t picked out for themselves.
    Having said that… I do believe the first two ladies looked quite fetching in their lovely, autumn-toned shawls!

  32. Melissa says:

    If that chicken in the yellow sweater and hat had opposable thumbs, she’d probably have fingers as well, and she’d flip her owner the bird.

  33. Nancy Wilder says:

    thanks for the crack up…and the heads up as to why exactly chickens don’t need sweaters! Those photos, oh my I’ll be giggling all night!

  34. Fiona says:

    They’re doing it to bloody penguins too!


  35. MidsChris SA says:

    That yellow one with the hat – nogal (Afrikaans for “as well”) nearly killed me!!

    Nooooooo man, how can you embarrass the poor thing like that (whomever it’s owner is).

  36. Alisa says:

    I seriously doubt if people make their chickens wear sweaters to keep warm. More like, just long enough for a photo. That’s how long mine wore her knitted hat.

    • Karen says:

      That’s what they *should* be used for but people are definitely putting them on their chickens (especially ones without feathers) thinking it’s helping them. ~ karen!

  37. Karen Too says:

    Another case of being dumb to kind animals… but I am smiling here…

  38. Christy says:

    Why did the chicken commit suicide?
    To get to the other side.

  39. Something else for me to worry about just before I go to bed. Even mild discomfort being caused to animals from well-meaning, but stupid, people drives me insane.

    • Kim says:

      Ha! I thought I was the only one now suddenly up concerned and feeling terrible for all those poor sweater wearing chickens!

      Well. We can hope their humans read this!

  40. Anna-Karin Hallström says:

    THANK YOU!! This been driving me bonkers for quite some time. As I have chickens, people loooove to post links on my FB page of chickens in sweaters. And I try to tell them in the nicest possible way, that my chickens don’t need sweaters. They already have a down jacket on for crying out loud. Sheeesh….

  41. Annie1946 says:

    Boggles the mind, seeing a bunch of chickens running around in sweaters. We’re getting sillier all the time.

  42. Laura Bee says:

    Prime example of entertaining & interesting!
    But have you ever seen a hamster in a sweater? http://cuteoverload.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/tumblr_mzx4g2pd9g1roq7h8o1_500.jpg?w=560&h=500
    hope I did that right…

  43. Becky says:

    I think the insanity started by people make chicken “saddles” which is to protect a hen from the spurs of an amorous rooster, and it progressed from there.
    As a chicken Mama myself, I have been sent a picture of a chicken in a sweater no less than once a week for the last three years, so I totally understand why you feel the need to post this. Its silly and quite frankly ridiculous—- AND if you do have a rooster, and put a sweater on your hen it can be dangerous for both of them because his spurs can get stuck in the sweater. Its a horrible idea perpetuated by people with a definite lack of common sense.

  44. whitequeen96 says:

    I can’t believe this is really a thing, but I looked it up on ebay and they actually exist! And most of them are for sale for $20 each! Wow – the world is just full of opportunity for those who know where to look. Think of all those chickens out there without sweaters!

    • whitequeen96 says:

      And a lot of them have actually been purchased! Out of 75 completed listings since 12/02/15, approximately 70 of them were sold! There’s a 3 pack that sold last week for $46 US + $3.25 shipping! Amazing!

  45. catt says:

    How about denim jackets? Kidding.

  46. Melanie says:

    I just want you to know that if I had chickens (which I don’t) I would never knit them sweaters. And not just because I don’t know how to knit.

    I am so, so sorry about Cuddles. I know you loved her very much.

  47. Abby's Mom says:

    I kept thinking the next picture would a chicken wearing a KFC sweater…

  48. Pam says:

    Clearly I don’t spend enough time on Pinterest as I’d never heard of chicken sweaters. What is wrong with people that they think this is a good idea?

    • christine waslh says:

      people are stupid,,,that’s the problem. they think that animals have the same physical needs. they dont think and they don’t understand how feathers work

  49. Jan in Waterdown says:

    The gals in those pics look either completely embarrassed or completely pissed off . . . it’s hard to tell with a chicken.
    And on a completely different note, YAY I’m the first post o’ the day! Yippee. Night night.

  50. Paula says:

    I started laughing as soon as I read the title! haha

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