We Bought A Pet Chicken In Vietnam

Why did we buy a chicken, you ask? It went like this.

Back in Sapa, there was a man selling live chickens at a market. As a joke, I asked if I could buy one. The man refused and I (not liking to be refused a purchase) took it to heart, determined to buy a chicken in the near future. Karlee and I discussed the potential chicken purchase and deemed it a fantastic idea (we had talked about wanting a travel pet previously)…we just didn’t know where to keep our chicken.

We discussed potential leash options, coming up dry on ideas. Everything changed during our homestay with Mu when Grandma arrived to dinner with a basket housing a chicken. She had solved our chicken conundrum. We paid Grams $2 and she wove us a bamboo chicken basket to take home with us. They offered to sell us their chicken but, unfortunately, our Boomerang Bus ticket explicitly forbade chickens (legitimately. It states this) so we decided to carry around our chicken basket until we reached Hoi An. There, we would buy our pet chicken.


The chicken basket, itself, brought so much joy to our lives. Apparently the basket is an actual thing in Vietnam as everywhere we went locals would shout to us, gesture to our basket, flap their arms and bawk, laughing jubilantly. They knew what the basket was for…and they loved it. They were very excited for our chicken purchase (and so were we).

Our last day in Hoi An, fresh off our motorbike purchases, we ventured to the local market to find a chicken and ponchos (one needs weatherproofing when setting off on a moto trip throughout the country). Surprisingly, it was easier to find a live chicken than it was to purchase a poncho.

We wandered through the market, pointing to our basket and bawking. We kept being led to the butcher’s but after some head shaking and elaborate chicken miming a woman called us over to her table, pointed to a stool and motioned for us to sit. She called someone on a cell phone and told us (well not really told us…she didn’t speak English…but I knew what she meant) to wait. Five minutes later, a man on a motorbike (let’s call him Chicken Man) arrived, asking us to follow him. Turns out, this was the woman’s son and he would take us to their home where we could then purchase a chicken.

We hopped on our fancy shmansy new motorbikes and followed Chicken Man down the street to a small house with a yard housing around 20 chickens and 200 stalks of corn on the ground. He led us to a chicken coop where he proceeded to pick up various chickens, spreading their wings, showing us their size, and asking us to squeeze their fat to see how big they were. We picked a cute, little chicken in the back (much to Chicken Man’s dismay…he said she was too small to eat) to purchase. We definitely overpaid for our chicken (she cost $10) but we were too excited by our new purchase to barter and $5 each for a pet was within budget.

We decided to name our chicken after our trek guide in Sapa except rather than spell her name Mu, we would spell it Moo…because it’s like a cow…and it cracked us up.

Chicken Man stuck Moo in our chicken basket and she had escaped through its openings within 30 seconds. Apparently Moo was, in fact, a very small chicken. Moo headed for the house, hiding behind some drapes while Chicken Man sprinted in after her, waving his arms in a strange manner that I think is supposed to be calming. He eventually caught her and asked me to hold her while he reinforced our chicken basket with twine so she couldn’t escape.

It’s rather awkward holding a chicken and I ended up accidentally dropping her, with Moo scurrying out of the yard yet again. Chicken Man’s friend held her for me after that (apparently Karlee is afraid of birds so wouldn’t touch her. She waited until we had already purchased a chicken to share this info. Psh).

While Chicken Man fixed up our basket, we decided to ask some general questions about chicken ownership to ensure we would give her a good home. His answers were comical. For example, we asked if we should cover part of her basket to block the wind from the road. His reply: “Do not cover basket. Chicken need air. Chicken will die.” We repeated the question, with more emphasis on part of the basket and he replied, “No. Chicken likes the wind.” We then asked if we should at least cover the top of the basket in case it rains. His reply: “If rain, put chicken in sunshine to dry.” The man killed me.

Chicken Man finished up his basket handiwork and handed over our new pet, Moo. He gave us some corn and grains to feed her with and off we went back to our hostel to pack up our bikes and hit the road.

The chicken drew a crowd from the get go.

The local hostel staff loved her, laughing and giving advice on how to care for her. We received mixed reactions from the other tourists. Some thought it was hilarious while some thought we were weird (well obviously…) but whatever their reaction, everyone loved Moo. She’s a lovable bird. A delight, really.

And that, my friends, describes our purchase of Moo The Chicken, the most practical Asian travel pet.


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