I love my chickens. If you have been following my blog, then I think you know that we consider our chickens as special members of the family. We love to visit with them, talk to them, hold them, feed them treats, give them fresh bedding and even have been known to whisper sweet nothings in their ears from time to time.
Here in lies part of the debate in the Town of Barnstable. Are chickens livestock or pets? How should they be categorized?
I turned to Webster’s Dictionary on-line for their definitions of each word. Here is what I found:
live·stock noun ˈlīv-ˌstäkanimals kept or raised for use or pleasure; especially : farm animals kept for use and profit
pet noun ˈpet a pampered and usually spoiled child b : a person who is treated with unusual kindness or consideration : darling, a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility
Why did I get chickens? I got chickens because I always wanted them. I have always loved their antics and had fantasies about fresh eggs. I also thought that they would offer my children lessons in responsibility and caring for animals. I find it interesting that a distinction even needs to be made. As livestock, we enjoy getting eggs from our chickens. Chickens will lay most of their eggs during their first two years of life. The average age of a chicken is 5 years. As they age, their egg production will taper off. I cannot tell you how many people ask me what we are going to do with the chickens after they stop laying. “Nothing.” I tell them, “They are our pets.” I suppose some people would kill them and eat them. I know some people wean out young hens that are not good egg layers. However, I could never do that!
Reflecting back on those definitions, I would have to say that my chickens fit both. I do not consider myself a farmer. I do not consider raising chickens being only black or white, livestock or pets. If a chicken is ailing, a farmer would never bring it to a doctor. Instead they would take it to a field and put it out of it’s misery. If a chicken is old and no longer laying, it ends up in the pot. If they have a rooster that is problematic, it’s days too are over. When people keep pets, they accept that they are not perfect. Their imperfections make up who they are, like humans, no one is perfect. However, when livestock is not perfect, it is almost always replaced. Pets are not typically replaced unless they pose a danger to those around them. Pets are nursed back to health from illnesses. They are loved despite their quirks. They are cared for in their old age and treated as members of the family.
When people think of pets, they don’t typically think of chickens. I would never have thought in my wildest dreams that I would be happy to profess that I have eight lovely pet chickens that provide us with tasty eggs. Perhaps, their job description should read “livestock” and their hobby should be “pet”.