Keeping Hens and Horses

A recent post on our Nutrena Chicken and Poultry Feed Facebook page asked an outstanding question – is it okay to let my chickens out in the pasture to range with my horse? Not only is it okay, it is actually a good idea! Keeping chickens along with horses is a time honored tradition that certainly can be manageable, and even beneficial – here’s why:

  • 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.
  • Chickens are low maintenance. Provide them with a cozy place to sleep, fresh clean water, free choice oyster shell for strong eggshells, grit for digestion and some layer feed 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 pitchfork 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…

A few words of caution about keeping chickens with your horses – make sure that your chickens are fed seperately from your horse and that your horse can’t get into their feed. This will eliminate the risk of your horse consuming layer feed that is not designed for his digestive system. Also, provide roosts for your chickens that are away from your horse’s feeder if they are not put into a coop at night to eliminate waste of feed and hay due to chicken droppings. Make sure both your horse and chickens have fresh, clean water that is easily accessible to them at all times.


8 Replies to “Keeping Hens and Horses”

  1. Great post! Anytime we post photos of our chickens roaming around our pasture on Facebook, fans are amazed that the horses don’t step on them or chase them! You make some excellent points here and are right on the money. Our chickens have been known to turn their noses up at watermelon in favor of a pile of fresh horse manure – go figure!

  2. Is it ok for chickens to pasture range with sheep? We’re thinking of getting Barbados sheep as well as chickens this Spring, and wonder if they’ll be ok near each other, except for their feed, of course.

    1. Great question! Chickens and sheep will do well together, for many of the same reasons that horses and chickens do! The main concern with sheep is that they have no access to the chicken’s commercial feed, since sheep have a very low tolerance for copper and should be fed only feeds that are specifically formulated for them (check the label and make sure it lists sheep as the intended species). Other than that detail, it should be a match made in heaven! Have fun with your animals this spring!

    1. Hi Natalie,
      Great question. Grit and oyster shell are two things that you don’t have to worry about feeding too much of. Provide them to your birds in seperate containers from feed – make them available free choice and the birds will take what they need!

  3. many many years ago when I built my first chicken coop, I insulated it with styrofoam panels . . . on day 3 my chickens ate every panel within reach and started pooping fluffy little messes. I was panicked, called my Dad and he said, they are all gonna die. No way was I losing all my kids 4H projects, so those chickens got very little feed and pounds of grit for a week and I didn’t lose one of them.

  4. When chickens “explore” the manure,they also help it to dry out faster,which
    decreases the fly population.Even with ice/snow on the ground our Buckeye
    and Vorwerk hens came to the barn.(Chickens have their own house due to

  5. Unfortunately, our barn has many boarders, and many of them bring their dogs when they come to visit their horses. My chickens will have to stay on their own side of the chicken yard fencing…

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