Livestock and Poultry no more. More and more families are seeing the benefit of having chickens as the new family pet. Chickens are being promoted as pets by mainstream media from PBS, The Wallstreet Journal, The New York Times, LA Times, Martha Stewart and the list goes on. Even major retailers are jumping on board. Chicken coups can now be purchased online through most major pet stores such as PetCo or PetSmart, Walmart, the Home Depot, or other new specialty stores such as My Pet Chicken.com.
Why have pet chickens? In our humble opinions, chickens are nature’s perfect pet! What other animal is curious, affectionate, loves to cuddle, plays, talks to you (quietly), provides hours of enjoyment, yet still gets rid of pests in the garden, composts up to 7 pounds of table scraps a month, is very easy to clean up after (compostable waste is a definite bonus) and is often so quiet that neighbors do not realize they are there? Our family pets all have personalities and names to match. The girls love playing with our two young boys. We have photos of our youngest son playing with the hens. Last summer at, a year and half of age, whenever he sat down in the yard, the girls would all come over to visit him and play. We have photos of them all taking dust baths together. Now that they are getting older, whenever it gets too quiet in the house, we check the pen with the chicks. Our younger son likes to sit and visit with them, singing to them or trying to take his naps on the floor next to their cage. It is our older son’s responsibility to feed the big girls outside and help me clean the coop, check for eggs and change their water. He sees the bigger hens as playmates and they chase each other around the garden.
Our original intent when purchasing our pullets was threefold. We wanted family pets for our children. Additionally, we decided to start an organic gardening based educational daycare and the pullets were an integral part of that process, serving as educational pets and a part of the garden. We had the added benefit of getting eggs, although it took almost 8 months before we got any eggs. We have developed the garden even further this summer. While our original purpose for raising chickens was for their eggs and educational benefit, within a few days of getting our girls, they became pets. We had no idea how much fun they could be or what a significant part of our family they would become.
Personally, we believe that many others feel the same way, as is evidenced by the booming growth in the pet chicken market.
Here are a few selections describing chickens as pets:
In unincorporated St. Louis County, residents are allowed to keep chickens on their property as pets…
St. Louis County Ordinance Guide
.Keeping chickens as pets has become increasingly popular over the years among urban and suburban residents. Most chickens are kept on farms for the agricultural production of meat and eggs but some chickens are kept as pets for entertainment and educational reasons, along with homegrown eggs and sometimes meat. With the growing interest in all-natural pest control alternatives, people are now keeping chickens to rid their property of unwanted insects and larvae, which uses the birds’ natural instinct to seek out and eat bugs.
Livestock feed and pet food maker Purina Mills is seeing double-digit growth for its small, 5-pound bag of all-natural poultry feed marketed since 2003 to people who raise small flocks for eggs or as companion animals.
Backyard Chickens, a Web site that began to help city residents raise chickens, says its community of about 27,000 people is growing rapidly, with about 100 new members daily. [now over 60,000]
The Web site’s owner, Rob Ludlow of Pleasant Hill, Calif., attributes the increased interest in raising suburban chickens to three factors: their relative ease of care as pets; increased interest in getting food from humane, local sources; and a desire by some to produce their own food in tough economic times.
Chicken advocates also point out that the chickens are treated as pets, and when a hen’s productive years are over, they are far from neglected. They’re often doted on like a member of the family — one that can eat bugs and provide fertilizer. One Web site, chickendiapers.com sells “diapers” that enable chickens to roam around indoors without soiling carpets. The owner reports that sales have climbed by 20 or 30 percent in the past few years.
“A lot of people, surprisingly, have them for pets,” said Lughai, who in his film explores the bond people have with their chickens. “They’re like a dog or cat.”
Eureka board of aldermen added a caveat to an existing ordinance regarding keeping chickens as pets within the city limits of Eureka.
One of the state’s leading poultry experts – Gary Butcher at the University of Florida – said he is constantly fielding inquiries about whether cities should allow chickens as pets. He urges communities to keep an open mind to the idea.
Butcher, a professor of veterinary medicine, said pet chicken advocates are wrong in their belief that the eggs are more healthy, but he said cities should not blow concern about noise and waste out of proportion. He suggests allowing chickens with some restrictions – such as no roosters and a limit on the number of hens based on the size of the property.
“We are so urbanized now and there is a desire by some people to get back to nature,” Butcher said. “No one can give a really good, sound reason not to allow chickens if they are handled properly. You might as well not allow dogs and cats.”
Hilary Swank, the 2009-2010 spokeswoman for the Home for the Holidays adoption campaign
“… there is an animal for everyone out there.” Besides dogs and cats, people may be surprised to learn about the horses, goats, turtles and even chickens available for adoption.
Radio Personality..Andy Schneider, better known as the Chicken Whisperer™ has become the go-to guy across the country for anything chickens. Over the years he has helped a countless number of people start their very own backyard flocks. He is not only a national radio personality, but also a contributor for Mother Earth News Magazine, Grit Magazine, and Farmers Almanac. He is the owner of Atlanta Pet Chickens, Classroom Chickens, and is the Founder/Organizer of the Atlanta Backyard Poultry Meetup Group that has quickly grown to over 1,600 local members! He has been featured on CNN, HLN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, as well as in The Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, The Economist, USA Today, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New Life Journal, and countless other local and national publications.