Is it a chicken farm or a chicken ranch?

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Over the years, a common question I’ve been asked is whether raising chickens (on a large scale) means you own a chicken farm or a chicken ranch.  The answer is not as straight-forward as one might think.

If you are raising chickens solely for meat, you likely fall in the category of “chicken rancher.” If you raise more crops than chickens, however, you’re more likely categorized as a “farmer.”

If you are raising chickens solely for eggs, you can easily fall in either category.  Again, if you raise more crops than chickens, however, you’re are a bonafied farmer!

Now, to complicate matters, if you live in an area where crop farming is predominant, you’ll find that even cattle ranchers will be referred to as “farmers.” Often, the naming is regional.

I don’t know many chicken farmers or ranchers who will be offended if you referred to them as one or the other, but if you’d like to know the differences, we’ve detailed out the standard definitions for each category:

Is it a chicken farm or a chicken ranch?

Is it a farm?

Even though farms and ranches sound the same, both of them have a vital difference. Basically, a farm is a place where vegetables, grains, spices, and herbs grow for human consumption.

Vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, cabbages, lettuce are cultivated there. Grains and spices include barley, rice grains, buckwheat, cardamom nutmeg, mace an so on. Apart from this fibers, and raw materials can also be collected from a farm such as cotton, wool or silk.

Other types of farms include orchards with various fruit producing trees maintained for food production. They may also be nut-producing trees such as almonds, walnut, hazel-nut, and cashew.

There are also hydroponic farms where plants grow in water. Or Aquaponic farms, which combine crops with fish farming to create a symbiotic relationship.

Is it a ranch?

A ranch is specifically a large farm where ranchers raise livestock such as cattle and sheep to produce products like meat and wool. This also includes elk, American bison, ostrich and emu, too.

Ranching originated from Spain. The name ranch derives from the  Spanish word ‘rancho’, meaning a small farm. Over time, the meaning changed.

The people who own or manage a ranch are ranchers, cattle-men or stock growers. The main occupation of ranchers is guiding the livestock to graze and feed. They make use of animals such as horses or dogs to enhance their ability to graze and raise the livestock.

Ranchers may also engage in a limited amount of farming, raising crops for feeding the animals such as hay and feed grains. Some ranchers primarily raise young stock, hence they are also called cow-calf operator. People handling horses are often referred to as wranglers.

Chicken farm or chicken rancher?

If the bulk of property is cultivated for agricultural production, it’s clearly a farm.  If the property is used for livestock breeding and raising to produce meat or animal products such as wool, it’s more commonly referred to as a ranch.

Bottom line, when in doubt, use the term “farm” or “farmer.” Its universally accepted and certainly a term of honor to the hard-working folks in our farming and ranching industries!


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by
Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an author and sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s writing about country living and artisan culture.
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  1. Reply

    Very interesting post Barb. I would have never considered a person raising chickens to be a rancher, so I’m glad to see I’m correct in calling them farmers. I do know two types of cow owners though like you mentioned. The “farmer” across the street has 100+ acres of land with the same amount of cows but calls himself a farmer. My daughter’s friend raising Texas Long Horns on about the same size spread (if not bigger) call themselves rancher.

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