One of the more frequently asked questions I get has something to do with people’s understanding that cats and birds don’t get along together. This, for the most part is true (save for some really awfully cute youtube videos!). But a chicken has no concept that is the rule of things… and it doesn’t have a clue that being a sort-of bird, it’s SUPPOSED to be afraid of cats.

 As a result, I have never seen nor heard of a cat killing a chicken. I have discussed this with other people who have raised chickens for many, many years and a lot longer than I have and they too say that they don’t worry about cats around their chickens. Even big feral tom-cats in the neighborhood give the hens a wide berth. I have seen many a feline completely and utterly terrified of a chicken — and with good reason!

 Hens just have little concept of fear and seriously, I really couldn’t say where the “You’re a chicken!” term even applies. My observations have actually begun to believe the “You’re a chicken!” term to be a complement! The smallest of hens will face down a cat and send it quickly on the run in the opposite direction and you can be sure that particular cat will NEVER willingly face a chicken ever again, and might seriously need some psychiatric help!

 Many years back, I once watched the PBS special “The Natural History of the Chicken” and can still fondly recall a Bantam mama-hen’s bravery in saving her brood from an attacking hawk. So you see, “you’re a chicken” just doesn’t have the same insult quality to me as it might to other people.

 Now there might be some of you out there who have had problems with cats bothering your hens – and if so, I would like to hear of it. I do have to admit that sometimes our two pet cats like to hide in the bushes and pop out to give a hen a momentary fright just before high-tailing it out of there before an irate and angrily clucking hen chases them down. It’s a game and you can really see although it gives the cats a delight to scare something… it’s more an adrenaline rush of flirting with death because the cat will run for its life as there is little doubt of the murderous “I will kill you and peck you to death” look in a hen’s eyes. It’s only the bored, brash and brazen thrill seeker of a feline that will engage in this activity.

Depending on the cat, it will regard chickens in one or more of these ways:
1.) It will ignore the existance of those disgusting creatures.
2.) It will use the chickens are its own personal death-defying thrill junkie fix.
3.) It will be utterfly terrified and completely freak out at the sight of ANY chicken.
4.) It will make friends with the hens and you will then have a cat who thinks it’s a chicken or a chicken who thinks it’s a cat.

 All that said, there two  problems I often stress to people they are interested in getting chickens and they are concerned about their cats:  Young chicks ARE susceptible to cats. So never leave a chick unintended when a cat is around. It’s only after a chick grows past a certain stage (approximately 8 weeks or so) that they can fend for themselves.  And always, always, be aware of the safety of your chickens.   There are no guarantees that all cats will be like those I describe in this post. 

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Jordanne grew up as a farm girl living in the most unlikely of places -- the concrete jungle sprawl of Los Angeles. She lives on the Urban Homestead where she shares her life with a wacky and always entertaining menagerie of goats, ducks, chickens, cats, bees, and stray animals that land up on her porch. Her passions are the natural and sustainable care of animals and her knowledge lies in successfully integrating "farm" animals into the city lifestyle. Jordanne also contributes to her family's blog called Little Homestead in the City -- chronicling this bizarre, beautiful, and often hilarious journey they're on.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Good to know! We are in the process of building our family farm and will be adding chickens next year. My male cat is a great mouser and was a bit concerned about what to expect with the chickens. We’ll watch carefully, but I’m a bit more optimistic now. Thanks!

  2. Good article and advice Jordanne…chickens and cats are interesting to watch on the farm. I watched my barn cat stalking my herd of 30 chickens the other day, they looked oblivious to them…even my rooster. Just as Apollo (the cat) got withing range all the chickens truned as one and began chasing Apollo back to the house, cackling and squawking…I’ve never seen him run so fast!!! My son and I laughed so hard!!

  3. Wonderful article! I wish I had seen that PBS show.
    My barn cat, Misha, actually seems to be in alliance with my chickens. Many people who do not live with chickens are surprised when I tell them that my chickens chickens will hunt and eat mice just as cats do. More than once, I have found Misha and a few of the hens stalking a mouse around the corner of the barn and I’m never sure who, if anyone, is going to catch the mouse first. I have to admit I have intervened by drawing their attention elsewhere to allow the mouse a chance to escape. I know it is a natural thing and I’d much rather see the mouse population controlled by Misha and the girls than a mousetrap. It still doesn’t mean I have to watch, though! Even my roosters, Midas, Napoleon, and Elvis have been known to sllow Misha to rub against them. Very much a peaceable kingdom!

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