To become a loving pet that’ll rival dogs and cats

Michelle Lee

Staff Writer

    Dogs are playful. Cats are independent. Fish are calming. Those are some of the main features that make up the majority of the world of pets. But just what exactly defines a household pet? Pets are domesticated companions that we humans can help care for. So pets aren’t limited to dogs and cats. How about…a chicken?

    Chickens can be as playful as a dog, as independent as a cat, and as calming as some fish. Take it from someone with firsthand experience: Efren Chen.

    “The first chickens we had were in around 2010. And then they died, so every few years we’d have to get new ones. The ones we currently have, we actually got them just last year,” said Chen (12). “We originally wanted to raise them for eggs, but now after raising them for so many years, they’re more like pets.”

    As any pet owner should know, pets require care and maintenance. They need food, water, a place to sleep, and company–and those are just the four main necessities. Chickens, on the other hand, don’t seem to need a watchful eye as much as other pets do.

    “Just feed them and that’s pretty much it. They can take care of themselves mostly,” explained Chen. “You just let them roam in the backyard and give them food scraps. We only have to buy chicken feed very occasionally and they’re really resistant so you don’t have to take them to the vet.”

    While they’re not your average Fido and Spot, chickens are still pets. They may be different, but different doesn’t equal bad.

    “They’re just nice to have. They’re like cats and dogs, except they don’t bite. You can feed them basically anything, and they’re really smart. Chickens can tell what they can and can’t eat. They’re just really nice, especially if you’ve hand-raised them from when they were little. You can hug them and they jump onto you.”

    As outdoor creatures, chickens also contribute to the environment around them.

    “Chickens provide lots of nitrogen-rich fertilizer,” said Denise Kuo, an alumnus of American and an experienced chicken owner. “Since my mom and I like to garden in our backyard, that’s been very beneficial for a lot of our home-grown produce and also a great addition to our compost bin.”

    Of course, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows when raising chickens. They come with their own set of difficulties that one must overcome and work around.

    “The challenging part of having chickens is that they are pretty noisy. They like to squawk in the mornings and after they’ve laid an egg. They aren’t as loud as roosters but they can be quite loud,” said Kuo. “Fremont actually restricts how many chickens you can have per square foot because of the noise.”

     Adding to this list, Chen explained, “You can’t put them with vegetables because they’ll just eat the vegetables. They scratch a lot so wherever you put them, it has to be bare ground with just dirt and mud. And when they do jump onto your back, sometimes, if it’s muddy out, you’re going to get muddy as well.”

    Well, who says life is perfect? Despite these difficulties, these chickens are loved nonetheless. To some people, though, it may come as a surprise that chickens can be raised as pets, as there are usually fewer people with chickens as pets than there are people with dogs and cats.

    “I’ve been friends with Efren since ninth grade. I found out he had chickens, I think, a year before that,” relayed Emily Chan (12), one of Chen’s friends. “I thought it was interesting that he had pet chickens. I was curious as to how he cared for them and what they were like.”

    When asked about typical reactions, Kuo replied, “People were surprised and a bit curious when they found out I have chickens. They aren’t the most conventional pet so many of my friends wanted to see pictures or to see them if they were visiting at my house. Most responses were positive, though!”

    Regarding these responses to the idea of having chickens as pets, it would be good to normalize the raising of such animals. After all, pets are pets.

    “I don’t feel like people should find this as such an interesting topic because they’re just domesticated animals,” commented Chen. “They’re nice to have as pets. They’re easier to raise than a lot of other pets, so I don’t see why more people don’t have them.”

Caption:  As pets, chickens are better kept in the backyard than in the house. They need the freedom to move around and be active in order to stay healthy. “They are social creatures so more than one is required,” stated Emily Chan(12). “They need a lot of food and plenty of space to graze.”

PC: Efren Chen(12)

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