Do I consider my backyard chickens pets or more like livestock? Does the worry I have about them getting too cold in the winter make me want to knit them one of these sweaters? Or am I so attached that I might feel like taking them for a walk in the park with one of these?
Some friends and family have sent me links to these types of things since I started raising chickens. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t been gifted one yet, in jest of course. It would make a great gag gift for a backyard flock keeper, but if you ever see me trying to walk one of my chickens down the street with a sweater on, feel free to questioning my sanity.
The fact is that chickens have survived cold weather without sweaters since about 7000-10,000 years ago. That’s a pretty long time. And most chickens are typically bred for colder weather, so I’m going to guess they will survive our mild North Carolina winters sweater free! As for the leash, I’m almost positive they will be happier pecking and scratching with their flock in the barnyard and not strolling around the park with me, tethered to a leash.
Even though I don’t have the same feelings for my chickens as say my dog, who recently passed and with which I had an extremely hard time letting go of, I still have a great sense of responsibility and affection for them. And now that they are officially into their biggest egg production years, I’ve had to do some serious soul-searching on whether my affection for these animals will affect my ability to one day put them on our table for dinner *cringe*.
See, hens lay most of their eggs within the first year. After the first 2-3 years, production slows down considerably. What makes sense? Are they pets, like dogs, that you would typically feel an obligation to care for and make comfortable until the end of their days? Or are they livestock raised for a purpose, to provide food? Does it make sense to spend money on caring for livestock without seeing any return on your investment?
I’ve calculated that if I want a steady flow of fresh eggs, I should add new chickens to the flock at least every three years. Backyard chickens typically live on an average of eight to ten years, barring they don’t get taken by wild animals or get sick. Some have been known to live a lot longer, even as long as 20 years. Now that’s a serious commitment! So how many chickens would I end up with if I kept all of them to the end of their lives? Way too many for sure!
Let’s just say that I’ve determined that I will have to do something, whether I do it myself *thinking never* or send them off for processing. See, even though I’m a bit of a “Fern”, I also love bacon way too much to put very much effort into saving “Wilber”.
So, until the day comes that a decision must be made, I’m just going to keep enjoying these…
Oh, and did I mention I ended up getting more of these this year?
No worries though, I’ve got my “crazy chicken lady” under control. 😉