Why’d the chicken cross the road?

Because its lunatic owner was trying to force it into a f&*[email protected] 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. Brandi says:

    I totally agree with your stance about them being stupid. Although I am faced with a current issue where I cannot think of another solution other than using a sweater. We have a silkie. She got beat up by our rooster due to her lack of feather protection…like to the point of an open wound on her head and neck (scary stuff). The wounds are healed now, but I was at a loss how to protect her upon reintegration. So I found someone making turtle neck sweaters for chickens. Truly I abhor putting sweaters on chickens, but it’s the only thing I can think of to cover her back from treading and her neck. If someone here has a better idea I am all ears, because she really hates it (only day 2, but she’s stubborn). And getting rid of the roo is not an option. He’s not overly aggressive…he’s just being a rooster (in his first spring which I have heard means they are more frisky).

  2. Kirsty says:

    But what if your chicken has lost a large amount of feathers and isn’t growing them back quickly enough and the weather suddenly gets cold at night and even when she has fluffed up all her feathers she has large bald patches and it’s quite windy so any heat she creates is blown off her and you find her one morning refusing to move and eat so you take her home, warm her up and she gets better but you can’t keep her home coz she stinks and you can’t let her out of the dark laundry coz you have a dog that wants to eat her.
    Do you think it would be acceptable to put a light cotton jumper on her for night time and take it off when the sun comes up?
    I’ve found heaps of info on why chickens shouldn’t wear jumpers but no useful info on keeping a chicken warm in an unusual situation like mine.
    BTW she is on a high protein and calcium diet to help her new feathers come in but she came to me in this condition and I guess the stress of a new home is making the feathers take longer than normal. She doesn’t have mites or any other signs of poor health. She is very happy until she gets cold.

  3. j says:

    What about naked necks or other chickens that permanently wont feather in the area covered by the clothing? it also seems like a loose poncho would be less of an issue than a sweater.

    • Karen says:

      Anything that stops them from being able to properly fluff up their feathers will be detrimental. You’re better off leaving the hen with some bare spots than impeding their natural ability to stay warm. ~ karen!

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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…

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. kelli says:

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



  11. Rose says:

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. Barbie says:


  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Jan says:

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

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