I think how you view things in the world as an adult stems mostly from what you are taught as a child. The debate goes on as to whether chickens can be pets. Many people who have never owned or met a chicken view them strictly as livestock. Livestock chickens are kept as long as they have a purpose, such as laying eggs. Once their purpose is over, often they are culled and removed from the flock ending up on a dinner plate or in a compost pile.
As a child, I was always taught to be kind to everything, be compassionate and empathize for those worse off than you, including animals. I think it is pretty safe to say that although our chickens can be viewed as livestock, they are our pets. Which leads me to another question that I get asked a lot, "Do chickens make good pets?" I believe they do.
I have almost had my flock for almost a year and I can tell you that as a human species in general, we definitely have not given chickens enough credit, and I'm sure even other types of livestock for that matter. Mind you, I speak from my observations. I can draw no scientific conclusions. However, I tell you my own experiences.
Chickens are capable and do experience emotions. I have seen fear, love, happiness and sadness. I have felt them shake as nervous Chihuahuas do. I have seen love and camaraderie. My two buff Orpingtons are inseparable. When one is missing for any extended length of time, the other calls out repeatedly in a very loud distressed voice. They are best friends. They are capable of being happy when new treats arrive and when I come to visit them. I see them saddened and confused when a flock member is no longer present. I also see them sharing treats with one another, showing each other a great deal of consideration.
Chicken mothers share love and are incredibly intelligent when it comes to knowing exactly what to do. Yes, some of it is most likely purely instinct. They could just sit on the eggs and let them incubate. Instead, they roll the eggs very gently and cautiously. They talk to their eggs. They know to be careful of the baby chicks. They keep them warm and teach them how to survive. The mother hen sacrifices her own needs for the sake of her babies. It is not unusual that hens can lose a good amount of their body weight while being broody.
Just like in every family, every chicken plays a role in the pecking order that they have created amongst themselves. It does not take long if you really take the time to sit and watch your chickens. You will find that they all know their individual duties and responsibilities.
Every chicken in our flock appreciates me. Some are friendlier than others and some just love me to pieces. I don't think that anything such as pets vs. livestock can ever fall into such black and white categories. If you ask me, I like to live my life in the gray.
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