I get a lot of emails asking questions but this one was special. Can I house train chickens? The answer is, of course, no – which any poultry keeper will tell you and it seems a bit of a dumb question.
However, there are no stupid questions because if you don’t ask you’ll never know. And if you’ve not kept chickens before and don’t know what they’re like, why shouldn’t it be possible to house train them.
The answer, no you can’t house train chickens or ducks for that matter, may be obvious to us but the reasons why you cannot house train them isn’t so obvious.
First of all, the physiology of the hen doesn’t allow them to control their waste elimination. Unlike people who excrete urine one way and faeces another, everything comes out of the same place with the bird. Even the eggs are laid via the same exit.
That’s why poultry manure is so rich in nitrogen and fantastic for the compost heap. The droppings are a mix of both urine and faeces.
Even so, you might wonder why poultry can’t control their eliminations like dogs and cats for instance. The fact is there is no reason for them to do so and so there is no evolutionary advantage to them in doing so.
Evolution & Waste Elimination
Nature doesn’t waste effort on things that aren’t necessary. Dogs and cats communicate with their waste. Dogs marking their territory and sending messages to other dogs by hitting every lampost they walk past. Cats bury their business to avoid detection by predators and to keep a low profile from other cats.
Animals that live in a den control their waste for health reasons if nothing else. If people ‘foul their nest’ they will soon come down with a disease and be dead.
But grazing animals, herbivores like sheep, cattle and horses, just do it where they stand. Or rather, do it on land they’re moving away from. There’s no benefit to them in control.
If we look back to the chicken’s wild ancestors – the jungle fowl – they are always on the move across the forest floor. Their droppings are left behind to help the plants and trees grow. At night they roost in a convenient tree on a branch and their droppings fall down to the forest floor. The next day the fowl have moved on and will most likely be roosting in a different tree, just like grazing animals.
Can You House Train Chickens?
So now you know that not only you cannot house train chickens but why you cannot house train your hens. And all from a daft question that wasn’t so daft.