Why’d the chicken cross the road?

Because its lunatic owner was trying to force it into a f&*$@ng CARDIGAN!

For the past 4 years the only thing that’s been more popular than mason jars or wavy, shoulder length hair on Pinterest …   are chicken sweaters.  Every week 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 4 chickens together and sewed them into a sheet they’d be a duvet.

Chickens don’t need sweaters.

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.



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








Seriously. If this chicken had opposable thumbs it would use them to pop its owners eyes out.


(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)

So what’s the number one, actual reason you shouldn’t put a sweater on a chicken?  Because it’s stupid.

And also it makes them 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.



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.  The kind of place that holds 10 or so birds in a cage that’s meant to hold one.  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 good home, 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 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 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.

You also don’t need to make a single other thing out of a mason jar.  That includes pizza.  Yes, apparently you can cook pizza by mashing all the ingredients into a mason jar and baking it until it’s a jar of slop.  Do not.  Need to do that.  O.K. Pinterest?



  1. Paula says:

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. Abby's Mom says:

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

  5. 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.

  6. catt says:

    How about denim jackets? Kidding.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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…

  10. Annie1946 says:

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

  11. 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….

  12. 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!

  13. Christy says:

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

  14. Karen Too says:

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

  15. 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!

  16. 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).

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. 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!)

  23. 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.

  24. 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 🙂

  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.

  26. 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!!!

  27. 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.

  28. 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!!

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. Sandy says:

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

  33. 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…

  34. 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.)

  35. Liz says:

    the yellow sweater and hat ensemble is horrifying…

  36. Tigersmom says:

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

  37. Cindy says:

    Hahaha! Hilarious and informational. Good to know Karen.

  38. Gretchen Sexton says:

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

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. Jennie Lee says:

    Very educational. And funny. Thank you.

  43. 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!!

  44. Jeannieb says:

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

  45. Monika says:

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

  46. Hilarious and informative. Thanks Karen!

  47. 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.

  48. 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. 🙂


  49. Jess says:

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

  50. Jan says:

    I’m guessing that soon enough someone’s chicken is going to freeze to death wearing one of those stupid things!

  51. Grammy says:

    I admit, that you are the reason I don’t have chickens. I live in the suburbs with a big yard, and I’ve thought for years that I’d really love to have a couple of chickens for pest control in the garden, fertilizer booster for the compost pile, eggs once in awhile, and just because they’re cute. Then you talked about your chickens and showed what an enormous amount of work it is to keep them safe and healthy, and then the ailments and health crises, and, wow, I’m glad you did that. Because I should not have chickens. I’m not prepared for that level of caregiving, what with the grandkid and dog and cranky old man.

    Then my next-door-neighbor got chickens (six of them) and I have the best of both worlds — the sweet clucking sound that I hear on occasion, the beautiful “girls” I get to visit, and an occasional supply of the best eggs I’ve ever had, with none of the work and worry. Well, sure, when one of the girls next door gets sick, I worry and care about it, but not like if I had to take care of her myself. I (and the chickens) have Karen to thank for that.

    I, despite being a life-long birder, knew nothing about chickens before you came along. But I would have never, ever, thought it was a good idea to put a chicken in a sweater. And I’ve never heard of anyone else thinking it, either. I have no time or interest in Pinterest, so I guess that explains that last part. So, once again, I thank you for posting something that has to be enlightening to someone, somewhere, and at least one chicken will be spared pain and suffering because of it. Seriously. Thanks.

  52. Flash says:

    I live in Alaska. A friend adopted a chicken that a rooster had stripped of her feathers. pretty near naked. it was 10 degrees out and dropped lower. my friend made a little sweater for her new naked hen. the other chickens didn’t mind. the hen wore a sweater (she had several) for about 2 months till spring came.

  53. Robyn says:

    I would love to have chickens but I know I would not survive a winter with them. I would drive myself and everyone around me crazy worrying about their level of comfort in this miserable cold. It’s bad enough convincing dogs that they still need to potty outside even when the temperature falls below zero. They look at me like I must be joking. Thank you for the entertainment and the education! Sweaters on chickens=bad. How about a heated roost? Never mind, I just won’t have chickens.

  54. Barbie says:


  55. Rachel says:

    I never knew humans put chickens in sweaters. Never, ever knew. Chicken apparel? Was this the premise for Chicken Run? Now I know why Mel Gibson lost it. They would be called chicken jumpers in England. But all joking aside, with the state of our planet lately you’ll think people would have more important things to do than crotchet their chicken a yellow sweater! My old boyfriend’s brother who was the most humane vet I ever knew use to drill us in the evils of treating animals like humans and as he was also a part-time pastor, drilled us in the idea of fire and brimstone which would be ours for humanizing animals which is really a terrible sin no matter how trivial it may seem. Thanks for the heads up. I really never knew!
    On another note, have you ever had a watercolor done of Mabel? She looks like a very impressive model. I feel like painting chickens lately and I may do her. Thanks for that lovely pic!

    • Rachel says:

      Typo on the “crotchet”. Meant crochet: nothing musical about chicken clothing. Unless you’re humming a tune while knitting on Beatrix Potter’s farm. Beatrix would never have put her chickens in clothes!

      • Penny says:

        Maybe not, but she DID draw Jemima Puddleduck in a shawl and bonnet; giving daft folk ideas, perhaps!

        • Rachel says:

          Exactly! You so right. And that’s the point though, fantasy images for imaginative children are not to be channeled into real life. No child would even dress their pet rat to look like Mr. Samuel Whiskers. I doubt Beatrix ever thought people would dress their animals to look like characters in her stories. If she were around today, she would protest against these images. Jemima was adorable though, and her bonnet, as a watercolour.

  56. Sally says:

    I live in New Brunswick, and my chicken coop is unheated and no light. And my chickens are still laying me a couple eggs a day! I remember when I first put them out there with no heat I was really concerned they would freeze, until I realized the jacket I was wearing was so toasty warm and full of down—and immediately realized how foolish it was to think about their perspective as being like mine. “Like the fact that if you gathered 4 chickens together and sewed them into a sheet they’d be a duvet.” hahaha Karen please never stop blogging-you speak to my pragmatic soul!

  57. Ev Wilcox says:

    Since various shades of grey (not those books, though I may have read them…) Now, where was I? Oh yeah, about grey. My favorite color! Mabel is one nice looking bird, and I am glad no sweater will ever touch those feathers! I doubt the chuckleheads who do clothe their chickens will “get” your post, but worth a try anyway.

  58. Rose says:

    Never crossed my mind that a chicken would need a sweater….. glad I was thinking straight about something!

  59. kelli says:

    Except when eating their own poop.
    Chickens aren’t dogs…



  60. Mark says:

    Chicken are related to dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are related to reptiles. Reptiles are cold-blooded. Cold-blooded creatures need sweaters to keep warm on the cold winter nights.

    Maybe the chicken sweaters were a gift from their extended family?

  61. Sue says:

    I’m another one who never heard of chicken sweaters until reading this post. Apart from the whole you’re putting a #$% what on a $%&* WHAT, knitting takes TIME. These poor crazy knitters–they do know they’re never getting that time back, right?

  62. leslie says:

    As a chicken owner and advocate, I applaud and thank you for providing this information to those folks who insist on anthropomorphizing their pets!
    One year I realized that my 6 growing hens were actually five hens and a rooster. The rooster later became quite aggressive towards me and the poor hens he was trying to mount. I read about saddle blankets and considered it for about a minute, then sent the rooster for a walk. Outside the pen. He was kind enough to provide the coyotes with a meal.

    Excuse me now, it appears my dog has lost one of his cowboy boots…

  63. Agnes says:

    One more reason. Knitting snags easily. Chickens live and range outdoors, jump and fly. They have a hard time getting out of the sweaters. Without those opposable thumbs they cannot untangle themselves. These things are a death trap – how long before a hen is hung by one!

  64. Karen Hassell says:

    I read this way after it was first written, but I had to reply. My chicken needed something to keep it warm and I thought about a sweater, I really did. She was a cross-beak and could not eat enough to keep warm. I finally had to hand feed her and she could not even get a drink by herself. I loved that chicken and couldn’t bear to put her down. So, I thought about the sweater. That seemed crazy though, so I brought her inside instead, which is probably equally crazy. In February, I got up the courage and had her put to sleep, but only after her entire jaw had twisted to the right as far as it could go and the top had start to go to the left. The sweater is not natural and makes them an easy catch for some hawk or other animal. Thanks for the good info.

  65. jeffrey munroe says:

    Do ANY of you have any actual experience with chickens?
    A highly favored hen is completely bald on her back from an overly enamored rooster, which leaves her no protection from his claws, and little from the 10F temperatures we’ll experience tonight.
    What we really, REALLY don’t need is stupid chicken articles with no practical information what so ever.

    • Karen says:

      That’s not what chicken “sweaters” are for Mr. Munroe. If you think for a minute that a loose weave home knit sweater would do anything to protect a hen’s back from rooster claws then I have to wonder if you yourself have ever owned chickens. The absolute worst thing you could ever do for a chicken in terms of warmth is tie her up into something that doesn’t allow her to fluff her feathers out to allow air (which acts as insulation as we all know) between her down, feathers and skin. There are indeed saddles for hens who are routinely beaten up by roosters which cover only her bare back and leave the rest of her open to self regulate her temperature as is most effective. ~ karen

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