Backyard Chickens – Pets or Livestock?

In other words, should we eat them?

When they stop laying that is.


This is a discussion my husband and I were having the other day.

I know ‘real’ farmers would not hesitate to get rid of any chickens that are past laying age.  Feeding them costs money, there is only space for so many and so they must earn their keep by being productive.

It isn’t as if we don’t already eat chicken.  We do.  So isn’t it a bit hypocritical to balk at killing and eating our own chickens yet be ok with some other chicken being raised in deplorable conditions and then killed for our dinner?  At least our chickens will be happy until the day they die AND we will also know what they ate.

Wouldn’t it be better to eat our chickens knowing they lived and died humanely?  They were happy up until the end?  They will be spared getting old and sick?

They wont know what is going on.

  They don’t think about such things do they?

But we do.

We think about it and overthink about it.

  Could we do it?  Well not actually ‘do’ it.  In an open, urban backyard in plain sight of neighbors there will be no killing, plucking or other processing going on.

The birds will simply go to ‘freezer camp’  as they say.   There are farmers in the area who will do the ‘processing’ for a reasonable price.

chicken in the pot

Another backyard chicken owner who has no qualms about ‘culling’ non-productive hens says they wait a month or so before serving one of their own to put a little distance between them.  Whatever gets you through the day I guess.

Oh come on now – that chicken you eat is a DEAD, formerly ALIVE chicken you know.

chk dinner

  Unless you are a vegetarian don’t go getting all righteous on me!

Well the difference is that it would be Brewster, Martha, Sally and Riot.


Our beautiful and first girls.  They are so special.   We love them.

chk love

But it is the way of farm life.  If my 4 older gals are not laying this summer a decision will need to be made.  I imagine we would pack them up in a tote, give them a special treat of mealworms and dried cranberries and drive them to their destiny.

Well maybe I need to think on this a bit more.  People don’t eat their pets.

Are my chickens pets or livestock?



12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy
    Feb 10, 2015 @ 20:07:14

    I would think yours are pets. Chickens can live a very long time, I would guess they stop laying way before they are considered old. Would you kill your other pets once they were no longer useful? I could understand the slaughter if you got them just to produce eggs and they stopped laying.



  2. Cindy
    Feb 10, 2015 @ 16:55:24

    P.S. I do occasionally eat meat (chicken) and when I do, I have to turn off the part of my brain that knows these animals that we eat, had to be killed. I think it would be a different situation if our very survival depended on that chicken or cow, but there are so many different things to eat that supply those same kind of nutrients and are actually better for us, then eating meat. As I said before, just my opinion.



  3. Cindy
    Feb 10, 2015 @ 16:47:13

    It is one thing to eat chicken that you buy from the market. It is another thing to EAT the chickens you have raised, cared for, in my opinion. Friends do not eat friends.



  4. Sarah Clarke
    Feb 10, 2015 @ 00:46:09

    I’m vegetarian (13 years) and totally consider my chickens pets, who pay rent in eggs! My in-laws eat meat, and I’m not bothered by it, but I couldn’t imagine them eating my chickens once they stop laying. I understand your dilemma!



    • ruthschickensruthschickens
      Feb 10, 2015 @ 01:34:22

      Sarah, Thanks for your comment, I appreciate getting your point of view. I am a ‘on and off’ vegetarian’ too so I am really not sure I can do it. The good news is they are all currently laying so I don’t have to make the decision just yet!



    • ruthschickensruthschickens
      Feb 10, 2015 @ 01:41:07

      Sarah, thank you for your comment. I appreciate getting your point of view. I am an ‘on again- off again’ vegetarian and I applaud you for being committed to it for 13 years. My chickens are now currently ALL laying after a brief winter break so I don’t need to make my decision for awhile yet!



  5. Barbara Faust
    Feb 09, 2015 @ 13:41:29

    I am a long time Vegetarian but I’m NOT GOING TO GET “RIGHTEOUS” with you. Instead I will share my observations of what i’ve noticed over my 73 years of life. All humans INDULGE in KILLING animals as well as their fellow humans in some form or another.

    Society has brainwashed us by using terms that purposely won’t remind us of THE DEED IT TOOK to get “meat” into the bloodless container in bits and pieces that no longer resemble the original owner. Since most of our parents and grandparents were good people and had no problem buying and eating it (((or even slaughtering it themselves))) why should we–especially since the FAKE never tastes as good?

    Leaders of countries send our youth to fight youths of other countries TO THE DEATH and tell their families they died heroes for GOD and country. Most of us in this country never lived in a war zone nor met the grieving parents of the ENEMY whose youth got killed in battle, so we continue to wake up in our SAFE FROM (((OUTSIDE))) OUR COUNTRY, INVADERS house–turn on the TV news and are happy when some EVIL TERRORIST LEADER has been killed. We keep praying to God for PEACE despite the many wars fought and our particular God is not even close to granting our wish.

    What’s the magical FIX? I don’t know, but do have a clue to share; if each adult iwould care enough to QUESTION the Status Quo instead of following along like a flock of mindless sheep, IMMEDIATELY there would be a lot less animal and HUMAN blood shed in the world.



    • ruthschickensruthschickens
      Feb 10, 2015 @ 01:37:51

      Yes Barb you are so right – we are so far removed from the unpleasant parts of life for the most part and especially from the food we eat. I suppose with everything else going on in the world, my decision to eat or not eat my chickens is a small matter but we all just can do our best in our little ‘corner of the world’. Thank you so much for your thought provoking comment!



  6. slcriger
    Feb 09, 2015 @ 13:26:52

    they have to go sometime



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