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 chicken’s 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.

Do chickens need sweaters? NO.

  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 8 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. 

This post I have answers all the basic questions about how to take care of chickens and what to expect from them.

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

124 Comments

  1. Debbie Fleischer says:

    I laughed so hard at this article. Thank you. I did try putting a chicken saddle on one of my hens because her back was bare from the rooster. She had it off in less than 30 seconds. So I quit worrying. The pictures with the article were so funny.
    My chickens love being outside even in the winter. They free range and are quite creative in finding new dust bath places. My garden is all pre dug. They are in a pen and coop at night. I do like to keep them safe as I can. I have 2 roosters and they do their job. I also have ducks. They have a coop, but hardly go in it. They prefer to be out all the time. One day I came home in a snowstorm and they were out playing in the snow. So cute.
    So have to agree with you. No clothes or sweaters for my chickens.

    • Karen says:

      Agreed, lol. My two oldest chickens at nearly 9, used to go out in the winter but as they’ve gotten older they’ve become less enamoured with it. If I could send them to Florida like a Snowbird I would. ~ karen! (i just realized the snowbird reference might just be a Canadian thing – it means someone who flies to and live in Florida for the winter.)

  2. Martha Meadows says:

    does your article about sweaters apply to chicken “saddles” as well?

  3. Susan Hunnicutt says:

    ….she would use them to pop her owner’s eyes out. I about died laughing!

    Awesome writing as usual!

  4. whitequeen96w says:

    I’m not a chicken owner, but wouldn’t adding more straw and bedding to their coop be a natural way for them to get warm? They could snuggle down in it if they were cold. I would think the main thing is to make sure their water doesn’t freeze, and you’ve already written about that.

  5. Pearl Agnes says:

    The chicken in a cape is good.

    I have been re-reading all your posts for days because we just bought a big house that needs everything. But, according to my husband, I have to follow a plan.
    I can’t paint the ceilings until the popcorn is covered, I can’t do the floors until… or paint until… or redo the kitchen until… The bathrooms are carpeted(!) and we might move walls so we better just leave that until…………………

    I am spinning in my head all day and most of the night so fast I am blind and ill.
    Just had to share. I just re-read your post about Miss Betty tearing out the kitchen wall to expose brick and that is SO funny.

    I am going to Zinsser BIN the bathroom floors after I tear out the carpet in the bathrooms while he is out to Home Depot. Next time he leaves, I am painting the fugly brick fireplace. That’s my plan.

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