Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are Chickens Livestock or Pets?

Are chickens livestock or pets? Both! Chickens may be considered pets or livestock depending upon the use to which the chickens are put. According to the dictionary, a pet is “a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility.” In contrast, livestock are “animals kept or raised for use or pleasure; especially: farm animals kept for use or profit” (1).
In Ohio “livestock” is a statutory definition that confers special treatment upon the animal so labeled. Producers, exhibitors and breeders of animals designated livestock are eligible for livestock exhibition subsidies. In addition, the livestock designation also requires special permits for operators of concentrated animal feeding facilities and requires licensure of dealers and brokers (2). A producer, exhibitor, breeder, dealer or broker is a person who makes his living off of his animals. His animals are his stock in trade or “livestock” .
This does not apply to a person who keeps a limited number of hens for pleasure, companionship and a few eggs for household use. Keeping chickens does not make a person a producer of eggs. According to the Ohio Revised Code, a “producer” of eggs is “any person engaged in the operation of egg production who maintains annually more than five hundred birds” (3). Backyard flocks are typically not that large.
Chickens are not the only animals that can be either pets or livestock. Dogs are usually thought of as pets. However in Harris v. Rootstown, the Ohio Supreme Court held that “the breeding, raising and care of dogs constitutes animal husbandry.” The Ohio Supreme Court has defined “animal husbandry” as “the branch of agriculture which is concerned with farm animals, especially as regards breeding, judging, care and production” (4), and an “animal husbandman” is defined as one who is engaged in “the science of breeding, feeding, and tending domestic animals, esp. farm animals (5). The Ohio Revised Code includes “animal husbandry, including, but not limited to, the care and raising of livestock, equine, and fur bearing animals” in its definition of agriculture (6) . This means that dogs may be considered livestock or agricultural animals. The care of dogs at puppy-breeding operations closely parallels the care of chickens in egg-production facilities. For the operators of these types of commercial enterprises, the animals are livestock.
A sure sign that an animal has achieved pet status is the number of products and services marketed to pet owners.These products and services are not utilitarian, but are concerned with the comfort of the pet animal and the enhancement of the human-animal bond. To this end – the comfort of the pet chicken – products are sold such as chicken saddles, chicken diapers, and chicken clothing (7). Chicken saddles protect a hen from an overly amorous rooster or dress a chicken up during molt. Chicken diapers allow pet chickens to have the run of the house. Dress-up clothes for chickens allow an owner to get his chicken into the spirit of the holidays as a chicken Santa or Uncle Sam There are even pet sitters that specialize in chicken sitting while the pets' owner is away (8).
Livestock have numbers; pets have names. Livestock lives far from human dwellings; pets live in close proximity to their owners.Livestock does not receive regular, positive human interaction; pets do.Sick or injured livestock are typically culled; pets go to the veterinarian for medical care. Marketed products for livestock are concerned with physical care, feeding and housing. Marketed products for pets includes care, feeding and housing but adds toys, clothing and other products that address the emotional needs of both pets and owners. These products and services highlight the difference between livestock and pets and firmly put chickens into the pet category. 

  1. Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster. Available online at

  2. Fiscal Note & Local Impact Statement, 127th General Assembly of Ohio, Am.H.B. 352. Available online at

  3. ORC 925.01

  4. Hall, Peggy Kirk. Understanding the Agricultural Exemption from Ohio Zoning Law: Summary of Relevant Court Cases and Attorney General Opinions. Available online at

  5. ORC 519.01

  6. Hauser, Susan.Babysitters for Backyard Chickens. Available online at


  1. Don't they sell ducks and chicken in the spring for pets! Would you ever give your child an animal not ment to be a pet? I don't think so!

  2. Could you specify what the Ohio Code is that states what you said above in the following text "According to the Ohio Revised Code, a “producer” of eggs is “any person engaged in the operation of egg production who maintains annually more than five hundred birds

    My family has 6 chickens in a very nice residential Chicken Coop Tractor that I built, and we are trying to get the hidden zoning code changed. The specific Ohio code defining Livestock would be of great help in this cause. Thanks

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  4. Should there be another persuasive post you can share next time, I’ll be surely waiting for it.