Keeping Hens and Horses

So you’re in your favorite feed store, buying your horse a few bags of feed, some treats, a bale of…. What is that you hear? The peeping of little chicks?!?!? You follow your ears to the tanks full of fluffy balls of cuteness, all the while listing to yourself the reasons why you can’t have chickens – where would they stay, what would they eat, they couldn’t possibly be good to have around horses…could they?

Chickens enjoy pecking at stray bits of feed

Actually, keeping chickens along with horses is a time honored tradition that certainly can be manageable, and even beneficial for you (and your horse)!

  • Chickens are opportunists. When a pellet or kernel falls, they’ll be there to pick it up. This saves your horse from mouthing around on the ground to find bits of feed (a practice that can lead to ingestion of dirt and sand) and it reduces the amount of feed that is wasted.
  • Chickens are good horse trainers. A horse that has had exposure to poultry won’t “have his feathers ruffled” by sudden movements, loud noises, or the occasional appearance of an egg…
  • Chickens help prepare your horse for the trail. If you plan to take trail rides where wild turkeys, partridge, chuckar, etc. populate it can be beneficial to have your horse used to the patterns and noises of fowl by keeping a few chickens around. A little exposure to flapping, squawking and scurrying can go a long way to desensitizing your horse to those types of events out on the trail.
  • Chickens are nature’s fly traps. You and your horse hate bugs – but chickens love them. Chickens eat flies, worms, grubs, bees; if they can catch it they’ll nibble on it, which means it won’t be nibbling on you or your horse.
    One of the best things about raising chickens!
  • Chickens are low maintenance. Provide them with a cozy place to sleep, fresh clean water, free choice oyster shell for strong eggshells and some layer feed and they will be happy and healthy.
  • Chickens are pets with benefits.Besides being a colorful and entertaining addition to your stable yard, chickens provide one thing your horse can’t – breakfast! Now if they could only cook it and serve it to you in bed…

12 Replies to “Keeping Hens and Horses”

  1. My family has had a few chickens on our hobby farm for years. We enjoy having them around. They help clean up the horses grain droppings and spread the manure so it composts faster. The only thing negative about that is that they spread it before you can scoop it out of the barn. It makes it a bit more difficult to pickup the manure with the manure fork. I’ve seen the horses practically sharing their grain with the chickens when they won’t even let another horse around them. They’ve helped desensitize my horses to birds flying out of nowhere. The horses barely flinch when a grouse or pheasant flies up in their face on the trail. They are pretty low maintenance in the summer because they are constantly outside scratching around. But in the winter they are pretty content just sitting around in the barn staying warm. Everything in the article above is true in my experience with raising chickens with horses. There are a couple drawbacks to chickens though that you should be aware of. They like to roost in rafters so be aware that there will be chicken poop coming down at any moment. If you have free range chickens the chicken poop can be a bit annoying. It is another great source of compost if you are into gardening though. The eggs are great but make sure you get your hens established in a nice nesting box before letting them run free. It gets to be rather smelly if you can’t find a nest of eggs in the hay until the spring. Be aware that they like your gardens that you’ve just planted so make sure you put up a fence around them so the chickens can’t get in. At least until the plants are well established. Then if you’ve got potato bug problems they may take care of that for you. One more thing. They are prey animals and need to be sheltered at night. Ours stay up high in the rafters. We’ve had older birds teach younger birds to stay up high at night. My suggestion is if you are going to get chickens with or without horses have a separate stall for them. So they have a safe place at night and a place to lay their eggs. Then let them out during the day to cleanup after your horses. Keep a routine and they know when it’s time to come in for the night. Oh yeah your coworkers will love the farm fresh eggs that you bring in to work to get rid of because you can’t consume that many eggs. Or you could sell the eggs and save up some money to pay for their feed over winter. Happy Chicken Farming!!!

    1. You’re 6 years old response is awesome and ”timely” for us! We rescued two miniature horses last spring and this summer started our flock of 6 chickens. Now I’m thinking about moving the coop into the small barn for our Minnesota winter and was wondering about that! I parcel out the eggs in 1/2 cartons for our volunteers ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Aw I always wanted to have chickens…… flies .. bugs… and someone to eat the left over vegetables the horse can’t eat 🙂 Great idea! hmmm where to put a coop…

  3. Since we have gotten chickens, and made no other management changes, we have had a huge decrease in the number of flies! It really works!

  4. Just wondering if the chicken poop will cause any health problems to horses? They go all around my fields so do the horse. What if a horse eats grass where a chicken has pooped on or hay?

    1. Interesting question. Chickens and horses do not have common parasites, so there is minimal risk of health problems for horses that graze where chicken are also running. Horses are pretty selective grazing, so they will generally avoid actual manure. Risk of salmonella and E. coli (bacteria) are also limited where the horses are grazing and chickens are present. I would suggest protecting the baled hay from chicken manure as it could cause some spoilage and palatability issues. It is important that hay be protected from opossum droppings and other wild animal droppings as they can be a source of EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis).
      Best of luck!

      1. Thank you for sharing this information you put at ease my concern of possible cross contamination.

    2. Hi Laura,

      Did you ever find out what an ample rest period is after chickens have excreted on horse pasture or on hay in the making…how long before it’s OK for Horses?

  5. Hi Laura,

    In addition to the reply from Roy J,
    did you ever find out what an ample rest period is after chickens have excreted on horse pasture or on hay in the making…how long before it’s OK for Horses?

    Thank you.

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