Life is always evolving and sometimes the lines of what specifically defines something can get blurry. What used to be absolute, now has a little ‘wiggle room’ for argument. Quite often, though, it isn’t the item in question that has changed, but rather our perception.
Chickens are, and absolutely should be, considered livestock.
Careful breeding has yielded a very wide range of attributes for people to choose from. Consequently, it can be easy to buy a bird that appeals to us in a non-functional sort of manner. In short, a person may acquire a chicken on the basis of how it looks instead of how it suits their personal needs of consumption. But, regardless of the motivation behind an individual’s choice, the innate purpose of the chicken has not changed and as such, a chicken should not be considered a pet.
What’s The Difference Between Pets And Livestock?
When people think of livestock they generally picture animals like the cow. In similar fashion, when you say the word pet, people think of animals like the dog or the cat. But what about a rabbit? There are those who have rabbits as pets and those who raise rabbits for food/fur. Would those running a rabbit farm see their floppy eared product/stock as pets? Would your child see their furry friend as tomorrow’s dinner?
The main difference between pets and livestock lies in the inherit purpose of the animal. Livestock, or ‘living stock’, is an animal kept by humans for the purpose of consumption (food, clothing, ect.). The term pet can be associated with the affectionate act of petting. In this way, a pet is an animal kept for the purpose of companionship.
As chickens are primarily a source of nourishment, both with eggs and their meat, they should not be considered as pets. However, as living beings with their own unique personalities, it is completely understandable to see them as something more than just an appreciated commodity.
Can You Keep A Pet Chicken In House?
Because of our capacity for love and empathy, we humans are capable of forming a companionship with animals whose original purpose is that of ‘living stock’. For example, my neighbors purchased a pair of goats for their child, with the idea of providing not only companionship, but a chance to learn responsibility. For them, the goats are pets.
However, it is important to note, that while these goats are a source of emotional nourishment, they are forbidden from being in the house. Why? Because they’re goats. Despite countless centuries of domestication, goats are still a livestock class of animal and as such, should not live in the same close environment as humans.
Chickens are in the same situation. While these birds can display an appreciation from our attention, they are still inherently chickens and, as such, should be treated in a way that respects what they are.
Chickens are not meant to live in your house. While it is possible to do things that makes a chicken’s actions acceptable to your needs – such as wearing a diaper as they poo without regard – it is disrespectful to the bird to make them do so.
An animal needs to be free to act on the instincts is possesses, and for a chicken, this is not going to happen in a human house.
First and foremost, a chicken needs to scratch at the ground. This is an instinct that is hard-wired from hatching. It is completely normal to see chicks scratching and pecking immediately after taking them out of the box. This is quite remarkable as they need to be shown ‘this is food’ and ‘this is water’ otherwise they will perish.
Another reason why it is bad for a chicken to be in your house is because of their need to be with other chickens. These birds are a flock animal and as such will experience significant stress when not in the company of another chicken. This means 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To treat them otherwise is to put your desires above their innate needs.
It is also worth mentioning that chickens can play host to a whole range of things that are undesirable for humans. And in close quarters, you will be at risk as the flapping of their wings is certain to spread these undesirables all over your house.
Are Chickens Exotic Pets?
As mentioned above, creative breeding has produced a wide range of characteristics, particularly with plumage. ‘Silkies’ are a perfect example of this. Their unique appearance has very little in common with a regular chicken. For me, it would be easy to view them as an exotic kind of bird.
However, with the exception of a few unique breeds, chickens are primarily a livestock animal. This is not to say that you couldn’t keep a rare and exotic looking chicken in a large pen as an interesting show animal. But it should be understood that this would be an exception to the rule and not the norm.
In the overwhelming majority of the time, a chicken will be the bird that wanders your backyard, scratching at the ground, eating bugs and providing you eggs on a regular basis.
I can tell you from a very personal level that our chickens have been an absolute blast to have in the backyard. And for the record, I LOATHE butcher day! There’s no doubt about it, I’d make a terrible farmer. It’s fun to gather eggs. It’s also fun to hand feed them treats. But with every batch of new chicks, I know there will a day where I will harvest them for their meat.
To be clear, I understand that our flocks of chickens are in fact livestock. But, in the nature of honest transparency, there might be a bird or two (or more) that never made it to the freezer. Instead, their final place was at a quiet spot down by the creek.
Granted, this is illogical as they are animals capable of providing me and my family with substance that is beneficial for our physical needs. It is not a rational response for me to ignore the benefit of their meat. It is, however, human. Flawed perhaps, but human all the same.
Where you choose to stand on the issue of raising a livestock animal is up to you. I can tell you, it’s been a very rewarding experience for us to interact with the birds. And the feeling I get when I feed my family food that I know is wholesome and nutritious, is beyond satisfying.
If I had to sum things up, I’d say it like this.
Raise your chickens with empathy and care. Respect them and do not selfishly try and make them something they are not. If you can do this and do it well, your heart/conscience will lead you to the right path.