What do you mainly consider your birds to be? Do you have chickens primarily as pets, or do you have them mainly for eggs and/or meat? If you consider them mainly as pets, then would you still have them if they didn't lay eggs and/or provide meat?
Meat & Eggs and show birds. eggs to eat when I am not hatching, meat for the culls that don't make show grade birds. But never as a pet........ never as a pet, I have a dog (1) for that. That's just me though.
Mine are pets 1st, wanted for eggs 2nd. They do rank lower than my dogs and cats though. So yes, they will be here until they naturally expire, whether they give me eggs or not. However, I have considered meat birds (freedom rangers), and may try that down the road - they will be well cared for, but not named or cuddled.
I love my girls. They are great pets.
I also cull for the freezer.
I had Billy and the Henriettas culled this year for the freezer.
Why, If they are pets? you ask..... my coop cannot support 12 hens over the winter.
I carefully considered flock dynamics, age of birds and roosting spots.
For the benefit of my little flock, the 5 big girls were slaughtered for the freezer.
This is my first year with chickens and it was sad.
I couldn't "process" them myself, so I drove 1.5 hours to a place that could do this for me.
In the future I plan to do this myself. It is not fair to have someone else do what is my responsibility.
I did second guess myself and change my mind many times.
Excellent question! It's not quite so clear cut in my home. (I gave up years ago trying to expect that every question has a black and white answer, so I'm OK with that). For me, chickens are livestock with a few pet-like qualities. That is to say, they are a source of food (eggs, for now?) that are fun to interact with. For my wife, they are mainly pets with some livestock-like qualities. For her, the chickens are fun and quirky treat-eaters that provide eggs but should never be a source of meat.
However, I do eat and sell their eggs. When I ordered a pair of goslings from Ideal, they sent sixteen packing peanuts: RIR chicks. Two were pullets. Those cockerels finally went to a friend's Frrezer Camp because I already have plenty of roosters. I tried not to name them.
Other than those "extra" roosters, my chickens, ducks and geese can live here until they die. They will still eat bugs, produce great fertilizer, and keep me laughing at their antics.