In the past decade, the popularity of backyard chicken-keeping has elevated the status of chickens from expendable, barnyard livestock to valued family pets. Unfortunately, many of the earlier poultry keeping articles and books were written with livestock in mind; frequently in those writings, culling is the proposed solution for certain injuries, behaviors and physical imperfections. Culling means to eliminate or remove from the flock, often by killing the bird. However, for most chicken-keepers, culling is considered the last resort and making a beloved pet the guest of honor at the dinner table, unthinkable.
Culling is a practical solution to problem livestock since they are typically butchered and eventually eaten anyway. Committing time and resources to rehabilitating injured or imperfect livestock that costs pennies to replace does not make good economic sense in larger scale poultry operations. Economics and practicality tend not to dictate pet chicken care, however. Pet chickens can be rehabilitated when they are injured, can live happy, high quality lives with certain genetic imperfections and can be wonderful companion animals with the dedication and love of their caretakers. The following are five commonly cited reasons for culling chickens that are not necessarily a death sentence for pet chickens: spraddle leg, scissor beak, egg-binding, prolapsed vent and egg-eating. I have had chickens with four out of these five conditions and in every instance those chickens continue to thrive in my flock.