According to the 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook (USPODS), approximately 36.5 percent of households in America own dogs. These slobbery creatures have bounded their way to the top of the pet pedestal, claiming the title of man’s best friend and never leaving their spot as the most popular pet in America.
Nevertheless, the question remains as to whether dogs are everyone’s best friend. Some people prefer their pets with feathers rather than fur, especially when these pets come with fresh eggs. Although owning chickens is still rare it has become more popular, especially in urban areas. USPODS states that over a million families currently own some sort of poultry.
Sophomore Abby Witham has six chickens along with her cats and dog. Just like Witham’s more stereotypical pets, all of her chickens have names (each given by a family member) and started out very small.
“We got them as chicks in the spring of 2012. For the first month they were too little to stay outside so we kept them in our bathtub. They were so small you could hold them in one hand,” Witham said.
After the chicks grow up and start laying eggs there is more work to do, but Witham says that it is not difficult for the most part.
“There is not much daily care. You have to keep them fed and watered, clean out the hen house and collect the eggs,” Witham said. “The biggest thing with the chickens is making sure that weasels or other creatures do not get into their hen house and gobble them up during the night…that and the fact that we do not have a lawn in our backyard anymore because [the chickens] have torn it up.”
Sophomore Nora Loney agrees that chickens are not particularly hard to care for in comparison to her dogs, geese, ducks and snake. Although the dogs are her favorite, she finds the chickens and snake entertaining as well.
“I like watching the snake eat because it is very interesting watching him swallow a mouse whole. The chickens are funny the way they follow you around looking for handouts and pecking at your socks,” Loney said. “There is not much to say about the ducks and geese; I like hissing back at the geese to let them know they are not in charge.”
The lack of interaction with the chickens, geese and ducks leads Loney to not consider them in the pet category for the most part.
“The chickens, ducks and geese are not really pets because they are not friendly; the geese hiss at you, the ducks run away and the chickens are just looking for food,” Loney said.
Witham agrees that the feathered creatures are not your typical cuddly companion.
“…The chickens are a little different. We got them for the eggs and they are not suppose to come inside all though they do occasionally sneak in. For the most part they are just like our other pets, though. We still pick them up and pet them,” Witham said.
Whether you consider chickens friends or food, both Loney and Witham agree that there are multiple benefits to chickens.
“They are very amusing. They like to huddle in our window well and when you open the door or go into the backyard they come running thinking you are going to give them a treat,” Witham said.
Besides the entertainment factor, having your own chickens also gives you your own fresh eggs. The quality of these eggs is one of the reasons chickens have gained some popularity over the years and another benefit to owning them.
“The eggs our chickens make … taste way better than store bought [eggs] because they are free range which means we let them run around instead of locking them in a coop,” Loney said.
Witham added that one of the best things about having a rare pet in general was having unique stories to tell about them. One such story Witham has is about her dog, Zeb, and his first few confrontations with the chicks.
“When the chickens were really little … we would take them outside to wander around for about an hour a day. The dog was completely fascinated by them and kept trying to pick them up with his mouth,” Witham said. “One time we lost Carmel who was the smallest [chick] so we were freaking out but we let the dog out and he immediately found her, picked her up and brought her to us. After that we did not worry about the dog with the chickens and the chickens loved the dog; they still follow him around.”
Even though dogs effortlessly trump chickens as the most popular pets in America, being found in 43 times more households than poultry are, Witham’s story proves that dogs can coexist with less renowned, smaller brained and feathered creatures. It might be because, just like Loney, Witham and plenty of other chicken owners, dogs have discovered the benefits of having a chicken around.