chickens
Flock Management
chickens as pets
I admit that I am not a fan of keeping chickens as pets, I think they are farm animals and therefore should be managed as such.  However I recognise that many people do wish to treat their chickens as pets.  This page both looks at the shortfalls of keeping chickens as pets as well as suggesting some options for better managing your pet chickens should you decide to keep them as pets.


THE SHORTFALLS OF KEEPING CHICKENS AS PETS
pet chickens and egg production
Each year a chicken's egg output steadily falls so that by the end of its third year it has significantly dropped and beyond the fifth year virtually no eggs are laid.  Given that the average chicken lives for around eight to ten years this means that you will be keeping and feeding your pet chickens for up to five years beyond  the point that they can supply you with eggs.

So for the given number of eggs your family requires you will have to keep at least double the number of chickens that you would need if you were managing them as farm animals. 


the environmental impact of keeping pet chickens
Unless you live on land big enough to provide a significant amount of natural forage for your flock the amount of food you will have to feed each chicken in order to produce a given number of eggs will be much higher than if you managed your flock as farm animals.  This is because a farm managed flock is not supporting any unproductive chickens, so keeping chickens as pets is much less environmentally friendly than managing them as farm animals.

the ethics of keeping pet chickens
Many people keep pet chickens because they think it is more humane.  However this is only the case if you only eat eggs that your pet chickens have produced.  As soon as you start buying eggs to make up any shortfall in eggs laid by your pet chickens you are buying into the commercial poultry industry's management structure which is far less humane than any backyard farm managed flock.  For more information see the
An ethical argument for backyard farm managed chickens page.


PET CHICKEN MANAGEMENT OPTIONS

Token pet chickens
If you are not squeamish about culling chickens but have small children likely to see your farm managed chickens as pets one option is to have some token pet chickens.  That is keeping one or two chickens of a distinctly different breed to your farm managed chickens that are the designated pet chickens, still part of the farm managed flock but given names and allowed to live out there natural life.  This was the strategy that I used when my children were little.


staggered natural replacement
If you do want to keep all your chickens as pets then the best way to manage them is using the Staggered Natural Replacement management system as it is the best way to ensure that you have a steady supply of eggs.


natural flock run as pets (One to avoid)
I have occasionally come across people who claim that it is possible to run chickens as pets and keep a rooster.  However of all the options of running chickens as pets I think this is the worst.

The male/female sex ratio of chicks that hatch is about 50/50, which means that half of all your hatchlings will be roosters.  Given that only your younger hens will be laying you are likely to end up with only one in four of your chickens being productive at any given time.

But you probably won't end up with 50% roosters as the dominant rooster will usually kill or drive off most of the young roosters.  I have seen an adult rooster turn a rival young rooster into a bloody pulp within minutes.

If you want to keep chickens as pets than it is not a good idea to have a pet rooster as the fighting between roosters will inevitable create a poor quality of life for at least some of the roosters if not the whole flock.  The only way to ensure harmony with a pet rooster is to make sure no chicks hatch out.