Horses and Hens as Companions: The Buddy System

Have you ever wanted to diversify your farm with companion species? If so, do you find yourself wondering, “What species go well together?” Well, that answer can be as simple as horses and hens! Horse owners can find multiple benefits in adding chickens to their operation. Not only are they fun to watch, but the chickens can serve a purpose!

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. It also reduces the chance of rodents – like opossums – coming around to clean up the dropped feed.

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, chukar, 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 encounters out on the trail.

Chickens Are Nature’s Fly Traps You and your horse hate bugs – but chickens love them. Chickens eat flies, ticks, worms, grubs, bees and more; if they can catch it, they’ll nibble on it, which means it won’t be nibbling on you or your horse. Guinea fowl will eat all these insects – and more critters, including snakes – but be warned: Guinea fowl are notoriously loud..

Chickens Are Low Maintenance Provide them with quality layer feed; a cozy place to sleep; fresh, clean water; free-choice oyster shell for strong egg shells and grit for digestion, and they will be happy and healthy.

Chickens Help With The Chores One of a chicken’s favorite things to do is scratch the ground for hidden treasures. Give them a pile of horse droppings, and they think they’re in heaven! They’ll have the manure broken down, spread around and out of sight before you can even think of grabbing a manure fork and wheelbarrow!

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.

Considerations for Co-Habitation

A few words of caution about keeping chickens with your horses:

  • Feed Separately Make sure that your chickens are fed separately from your horses and that your horses can’t get into the chicken feed. This eliminates the risk of your horse consuming layer feed that is not designed for his digestive system.
  • Room To Roost Provide roosts for your chickens that are away from your horses’ feeder, if they are not put into a coop at night, to eliminate waste of feed and hay due to chicken droppings.
  • Think Drink Make sure both your horses and chickens have fresh, clean water that is easily accessible to them at all times.

    Courtesy of American Quarter Horse Association