Family Life

5 Reasons Chickens Are the Most Underrated Pet You Could Ever Wish For

Chickens might be the most underrated pets of our time. My husband and I have kept backyard chickens for six years. While they’re not snuggly, keeping one flock of chickens offers all the richness of adopting one adorable mutt but requires only a fraction of the work. What they lack in snuggles, they make up for in eggs. Still not convinced your family needs chickens? Read on.

This includes the buttery crusts of your kids’ grilled cheeses, and the overly sweet milk remaining in their cereal bowls. For better or for worse, having chickens means you can no longer nibble on your kids’ castaways in the name of avoiding food waste. Chickens eat anything that isn’t rotting, including cantaloupe rinds, the fatty edge of your steaks, and the Wheat Thins that you have accepted you simply can’t have in the house because they rob you of your last remaining shred of self-discipline. They even eat chicken (cooked) and eggshells. (See also: Chickens aren’t the smartest animals)

This makes it a lot easier to deal with the fact that they will not be your forever (or 10- to 14-year) pet. This also makes it easy to say “Heck no!” when your friends ask if you’ve stopped eating chicken. When we open the coop to feed our chickens, they try to escape. Never mind the fact that their coop (supposedly) provides them shelter from hungry animals with claws and sharp teeth (see: Opportunity to talk about death). Meanwhile, our backyard offers no such protection.

Despite being dumber than playing Pokemon Go in the street, chickens are amazing teachers. For example, having chickens has taught my kids firsthand how much processing happens to your food before you find it waiting for you at the supermarket, as if by magic. Yes kids, that brown stuff clinging to the eggshell? That’s chicken poop. No, the hen doesn’t poop while laying. It’s physically impossible. (In this regard, female chicken design is more intelligent than human female design. Go figure.) It’s just that the hen might have stepped in poop and then stepped on her egg, or else she laid her egg on top of a pile of her own feces.

My kids know that while store-bought eggs need to be refrigerated, we can safely store our eggs in a bowl on the counter. Unlike the commercial egg producers, we don’t wash away the protective layer known as the egg bloom.


Not only do your chickens have the capacity to teach your kids a biology lesson or two, they can also offer real-life lessons in finance. Our five-year-old is thrilled to help care for our chickens. As long as she keeps her end of the bargain, we will let her sell excess eggs to neighbors and friends. We are currently taking pre-orders, as our young chickens haven’t started laying yet. I can only imagine what our budding entrepreneur will take from the experience.

Although they generally live about eight years, they only lay regularly for three years, four years max. If, like us, you adopted your chickens primarily for the delicious eggs, there’s no shame in letting them go when production tapers off.

Despite any of your plans for your chickens to meet their maker in a humane, cruelty-free way (there are farmers who can take care of it for a price), nature might intervene first, particularly if your coop isn’t super secure. Though it requires no planning and is free of charge, this method is highly inconvenient. Raccoons and foxes leave a gory mess in their wake. (That’s what my husband said. I couldn’t bring myself to look.)

Pro tip: A sure predictor that you’ll have an impromptu death chat with your kids sooner rather than later is hearing your husband, who seldom curses, yell a string of obscenities audible from your backyard to your half-asleep ears at daybreak. Of course, you can do the dirty deed yourself. Ask my husband about the YouTube video that taught him how to de-feather a chicken. (Sorry, I can’t share my hyper-local, super-free-range Crockpot chicken soup recipe; I invented it on the fly.)

While it’s never fun or easy to talk to kids about death, I am grateful we had the opportunity to broach the topic when our chickens kicked the bucket, rather than a loved one.

We got chickens with the expectation that they’d give us tasty eggs, but they’ve given us so much more than that. And we’ve never even had to give them eye drops, take them to the vet, crate train them, or change their litter.

This article was originally published in June 2024.

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