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At the size of an adult’s fist and weighing around 50 grams, rutin chickens have many fans who consider them both adorable and good egg producers. Photo: SCMP composite

‘Mini chicken’: quail and partridge hybrid latest pet craze in China where owners keep them in doll houses and only eat their eggs

  • ‘Mini chicken’ cross between a quail and a partridge is the latest craze among China’s pet lovers
  • The birds have exploded in popularity recently and are prized for their small size and egg production

A previously little-known crossbreed dubbed “the world’s smallest chicken” has fuelled a pet craze among animal lovers in China.

Rutin chickens, a hybrid between a quail and a partridge bred in recent years, have become the latest must-have companion for pet owners in the country where they are prized for their cute appearance and egg laying.

Also named the mini-chicken for its small size, the bird has been kept as a house pet, with many owners decorating their doll house coops and sharing videos of the bird’s daily routine on social media.

These mini-chickens are named after rutin, a substance that is normally found in certain fruits and vegetables but reportedly also found in the bird’s eggs. Rutin chickens were bred by crossing the blue-breasted quail and the Asian grey partridge, but are yet to be formally identified by agricultural authorities, according to several sellers.

A clutch of rutin chicks in a person’s palm. The hybrid bird is a cross between a quail and a partridge. Photo:

At the size of an adult’s fist and weighing only around 50 grams, the new type of pet bird has won many fans who consider it both adorable and productive as an egg layer.

A search of the bird on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, returned numerous videos, with the most popular attracting more than 1.6 million likes. It’s also widely available to buy on Taobao, China’s major online shopping platform.

They are usually kept in glass and wood enclosures that include lights, stairs and plants like a child’s doll house.

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“Check out my pet chickens in my living room. They’re not only lovely to look at but also supply eggs. I have something to eat tonight,” one owner said on Douyin.

“It’s so much fun to pick eggs every day,” said another.

The small bird is just one of the many exotic pets that have gained popularity in China in recent years as the country’s pet industry booms.

Unconventional pets such as geckos, hedgehogs and alpacas have entered the market in recent years largely thanks to a digitally savvy younger generation. A large proportion of these pets are traded online and transported in boxes via express delivery.


Visitor at Chinese zoo dangles live chicken into tiger enclosure

Visitor at Chinese zoo dangles live chicken into tiger enclosure

However, the live pet trade has led to animal welfare and biodiversity concerns as legislation and public awareness about animal protection in China lags far behind developed countries.

More than 100 puppies and kittens believed to have been purchased online as “mystery gift packages” or widely known as “blind boxes” in China were found abandoned in suburban Shanghai in September last year.
In August, a city government in central China caught two alligator gars after draining an entire lake due to fears that they could attack humans and damage the local ecosystem. The fish are an invasive species that were illegally released after pet owners dumped them.