Are Hens Seen as Pets?

During the dog chasing my hen and guinea fowl incident on Tuesday, one of the offending dog walkers claimed that there was nothing to worry about when her dog chased my poultry as they were only hens and we were going to eat them anyway.

Although I do raise guinea fowl for the table, some of the birds are kept for laying and breeding purposes and therefore have a permanent home on the farm and as such I will give them names as you can see when you visit the guinea fowl gallery and the poultry gallery

I personally feel that the dog walkers comment on Tuesday was both disrespectful and unjustified not to mention the fact that the behaviour of her animal was inappropriate and unlawful. The Countryside Code states that, “By law, you must control your dog so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife.” Being chased, pinned down and having your feathers pulled out would frighten any human, (if we had feathers, that is!) let alone a bird.

Since this incident I have been wondering just how many people have the same attitude as the dog walker. 

When I first got my two white leghorn hens (Hatty and Hetty) back in 2004 I have to admit that I saw them as “just” animals who would earn their keep by laying eggs for us to eat. However this view quickly changed.

When you spend many hours caring for an animal, whether it is a pet or an animal for the table, you soon become attached to them. Unfortunately Hetty is no longer with us (she became ill and died and no she was not eaten by us), but in the 3 years that I have kept Hatty, her character and mischievous side has come through. Many times I have worked in the garden and found Hatty sticking her beak in and many a night has been spent hunting for Hatty’s roosting place or egg laying nest.

Hatty is a very independent hen and does not liked to be fussed over. I can give her a stroke and when the nights start to draw in I can carry her from the temporary roosting place to her hut without a flap of her wings. Moments like this have helped me to bond with my hen and regard Hatty as not just a farm animal that lays eggs but a family pet. My 3 year old nephew has now adopted Hatty as a birthday gift and whenever he sees a white hen will shout out, “Look, there’s Hatty!”

When you think of a pet you normally think of a cat, dog, fish, hamster, guinea pig, rabbit or maybe a horse. Unusual pets such as reptiles and rodents are becoming increasingly popular but do people keep hens as pets?

Nuala McCann in her BBC article entitled ‘Hens Are Hobby With Eggs Appeal’ states, ”at least 500,000 householders across the United Kingdom enjoy keeping hens.” So how many of these householders view their hens as pets I wonder?

At least one (me!) or maybe it’s two because today I read that one couple have spent £2000 on their hen when she got her leg caught in barbed wire. The Daily Mail writer, David Thomas asked, “Have they gone henpeckin’ crazy? Are they utterly clucking mad?”

Who are we to answer that? It is not our place to judge them. If we asked people would they spend £2000 pounds on their injured pet, many would answer yes. So why should this be any different? Why should the life of a pet hen be any less worthy than the life of a pet dog or cat?

I would be interested to hear your views on this matter. Do you keep hens as pets? Do you think that hens should be viewed equally as other pets? Does it matter if hens are chased and frightened by dogs? OR Do you think that hens should not be viewed as pets? Let me know your views.

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