Nature on our Doorstep - New, The Down the Lane Wildlife Diary
Chickens as Pets or Chickens as Livestock
What is the purpose of keeping Hens in our Garden?
More and more people are keeping Chickens in their back gardens. It all started a few years ago when 'self sufficiency' and 'Good Life' type programmes were the fashion, then this was taken over by the re-homing of Battery Chickens. Although it hasn't had quite the same amount of publicity in the last two years I think it has surprised owners of Websites such as mine how the 'fashion' hasn't diminished and is still growing at a fast pace.
So, why do people have Chickens in their Garden? Is it as Pets or is it as Livestock in the sense of having them solely for their eggs thus making a Garden more of a Home Farm. Let's take the two....
Chickens as Pets
This would seem to be more in Homes where there are Children. They are a bonus to the Household and in many cases are an educational tool for Children to learn more about where their food comes from and gives them a bit of 'hands on' experience with nature.
Certainly in the case of ex-Battery Hens, Pets would be the more appropriate word. Those who wish to keep Chickens solely for eggs would be unwise to go down this route as it's a case of some do lay and some don't.
Hens can be Pets, the only thing to watch is if you have other Pets whose natural instincts are to hunt and kill. It's very rare a Cat will go for a Chicken, but even the nicest docile Dog could be suddenly turned into a natural predator by a peck on the nose or a Hen taking his favourite spot to scratch in. You can not train a Chicken like you can a Dog, if you allow them a free hand, they will go where they want, when they want.
But, that apart, Chickens do make good Pets, they are relatively easy to look after, don't get ill too often and will give you hours of watching pleasure as they go about their curious ways.
Some say they are not and cannot be Pets. To that I would say to post that on the Down the Lane Forum and wait for the replies - they won't have to wait long.
Chickens as Livestock
I would say there is absolutely no harm in keeping Chickens under the flag of Livestock. They are instinctively wild woodland creatures who like scratching, eating and laying eggs - that's what they're good at in the main.
Really, keeping them as Livestock hasn't any differences to Pets. You house them and feed them in the same way. The only difference is you're keeping them for Eggs, not giving them names and possibly see them more as having a useful purpose.
Selling Eggs as a Cottage Industry
Having half a dozen chickens in your Garden is not in any way going to make you a Millionaire. Having 6 Hens and selling the Eggs may just about cover the cost of their food, then if you take into account the time you spend on cleaning them out etc. when you could be earning money somewhere else - it's more or less a loss.
To sell say 2 dozen eggs a day outside your Gate (thus avoiding the many Laws etc), you would need a Flock of around 30 birds. You'd need good layers, so you're looking at a more expensive outlay. So you think of the space you require for that, you're starting to get into Smallholding areas.
So for those reasons, I see Chickens as whatever you want them to be. I don't see mine solely as Pets and certainly not as Livestock. I have sufficient to give me enough eggs for myself, I get enough to break even, I enjoy looking after them so it's more of a hobby in that sense, I gave up giving them names about 100 chickens ago - but I love them!
I go down the route of a Garden Farm, I have my Vegetables and I have my Chickens, the combination of these gives me some wonderful summertime Omelets with freshly picked Salads, good meals and bubble and squeak the next day - with an egg on top!
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