Broiler Chickens as Pets: We Solved Our Awkward Problem

broiler chickens as petsIt was the day before Easter. Elizabeth and I were at the feed store and decided that it was time to pick up our spring broilers, something we wanted to make a tradition to keep the freezer stocked. The price was right, the timing was right and the universe just kind of came together and said, 'Just Do It.' Ok, so we did. 

Fifteen healthy, active and bright-eyed broiler chickens were selected, boxed-up, paid for and loaded into the truck for the ride home. It's only a twenty-minute ride, not too far away. 

Well, maybe it was just a little too long to have a twelve-year-old empathetic pescatarian sharing the back seat with fifteen cute, yellow, fuzzy baby chicks.. 

Elizabeth started bonding, picks one and says it's her new pet.

One down.

When we got home, Wendie chose her favorite, named it and cuddled it close to her heart. Now we're down two chicken dinners.

Ten-year-old Carolyn wanted her own, so she chose a puffy cutie and called it hers. The kids' friends came over the next day and what do you know, all said and done seven of the broilers meant for the freezer were 'saved', given names and markers and became destined not for the freezer, but the egg flock. 

Ho, boy.

Can You Keep Broilers as Pets?

broiler chickens as pets
Yes, you can keep broilers as pets. We know this because of last year's late-summer broiler chicken order when only half of them went to the butcher. The remainder were integrated into the egg flock thanks in part to two September nights of a rampant raccoon that took four of our ladies. 

We had nothing to lose, so we tried the broilers as replacements. Yes, they're heavy and slow, but not in an unhealthy, commercial meat-bird kind of way. They are a NH Red and RI Red cross, chubby and friendly. We did alright. They survived winter and are thriving as we speak.

But to be clear, broilers are not the ideal egg flock bird. They eat a lot, are a little stupid and to date, haven't bonded with any of us. Do broiler chickens lay eggs? Oh yes, they produce. Quite nicely, in fact. I would say they're easily on par with our old Asa Browns, with 8-10 eggs coming in daily from a flock of eleven ladies and Bruce, our big rooster. 

Bruce, by the way, was also rescued from the oven in that same late-summer batch.

Broilers as Pets

broiler chickens as petsSo that brings us to this season, where we were supposed to raise fifteen birds for the freezer but are now looking at keeping seven of them as pets. 

I'm smart enough to go with the family flow, but how about some diversity? A few different breeds, you know, ones that are perfect for our purposes?

It's been three weeks, and the chicks aren't so cute anymore. They still have to be in the brooder, taking up space in my workshop for a further three weeks until they feather out.

Their heads are maturing, their soft, baby-cute down is scraggly and sparse, and they aren't peeping so adorably anymore. More like an eek eek eek. And most importantly, the markings put on them by Wendie and the kids are gone. The plan is to harvest between eight and twelve weeks. All of them.

Our Fool-Proof Broiler Solution

broiler chickens as pets
But then, what about the kids? The point of this whole story is that we tried something new and it worked. Kind of. Last year. It wasn't ideal, but things turned out for the best. This morning, Wendie and I did the feed and clean on the broilers and made a decision. No more broilers as pets. 

A trip to the feed store after lunch saw us picking up straw for the summer coop and run so the broiler chicks will be comfy, picking up a chock block for the egg coop, a couple dog bones for Bailey, some sunflower and annual seeds as well as ordering 6 new birds meant for egg laying to replace the broilers we definitely weren't keeping this year. None of the kids will know, right? It's just like replacing a goldfish left accidentally on the radiator, right? Fingers crossed.

Also, No More baby Chicks. Probably.

broiler chickens as petsDid you know you can buy chicks that have already passed that awkward, teenaged phase? We didn't, and now we do. They were a little more expensive than buying them as chicks, of course, but we're OK with that. Eight dollars a bird to skip puberty. Yes, definitely worth it. We'll share more about these little ladies in tomorrow's post when we bring them home to roost.

We love sharing our off the grid homesteading life with you all, and really enjoy hearing your stories as well. As always, don't forget to subscribe for more homestead goodness!


Lisa Lynn said…
Lol...I have 11 Cornish x that are almost ready to process. Fortunately for me, my son isnt' into bonding with chickens. ;)

Best wishes with the new flock of pullets! That is a much easier way to go. I have fun with the chick stage and around here we don't have many people selling point of lay pullets. So I either hatch chicks or order them when I need new layers.

Thanks for sharing the adventures!
WT Abernathy said…
We are enjoying it so far:) We've put the new layers in the summer coop temporarily, and will make the midnight move this Wednesday I think. The broilers might need a few more days, as the weather has a forecast of snow tomorrow. May 14th, and snow. The Farmer's Almanac had May 15th as the last the frost days and I guess, once again, they are spot on.
Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for the best wishes:) The same for you!
Kim said…
It's hard not to get attached to chicks especially for kids. lol We hatch out some every year and there are always a few that are "claimed" as pets too.
WT Abernathy said…
I suppose we're still getting our balance right- but at this time, we're looking forward to slimming down when the broilers are prepped for the freezer-
I have just in the last three days hatched eggs in an incubator. We love chickens here and have over 40 of them so far. We had a hard time when we first started with meat chickens too! Fortunately, the kids are grown so no worries of "pet claiming"! However, I had to stop myself from wanting them as pets, which I have successfully done! Now it's 12 to the freezer each 6 months and no more claiming them. Now if I can stop keeping those cuties out of the incubator meant for selling I would be great! Love your stories!
Dawn said…
I have a feeling it would be me who was the "claimer", I tend to do that with anything small and cute. I really wanted to try meat chickens, thought it would be good because then they're only around for a few months, not year-round, etc., but I have come to the conclusion that I'm just too much of a pushover and I WILL name them and fall in love with them and then *poof!* egg-layers, not meat producers!

Saw this post on the You're the Star Blog Hop.
WT Abernathy said…
We're at a point where we might be hatching our own for sales, but that will be after the kids move out on their own. As for the cute and cuddly chicks, these days we only name them if they really stand out from the flock. Some event or very unique coloring, for example. With luck, this should work:)
Unknown said…
I was supposed to have a leghorn pullet that came from Tractor supply but she turned out to be a broiler. We love her very much and her name is 'I say, I say' after one of Foghorn's lines. Thank you for giving me some hope that we can keep her. She is active and gets along fairly well with the rest of our flock.
WT Abernathy said…
We've learned it has to do with the breed, really. Most broilers are 'engineered' to be heavy and meaty, and this makes them have a tough quality of life later one when they mature. They are unable to walk and suffer from easily broken bones- Sound like your might be related to ours:) Best wishes!