Efforts to become more self-sufficient have led many urbanites to explore raising chickens. For some, the fresh, low-cost eggs and garden fertilizing are worth the effort, feed costs and accommodations chickens require, but many backyard chickens are winding up in shelters and sanctuaries.
According to NBC News, “Hundreds of chickens, sometimes dozens at a time, are being abandoned each year at the nation’s shelters from California to New York.”
A big part of the problem is that chickens will typically only lay eggs for a few years—not usually more than four—but can live another decade after laying stops. Those urban farmers (“hipsters,” NBC calls them) who don’t want to kill the chickens for their meat, wind up with a somewhat labor intensive and not housebroken pet who no longer yields much in return.
Urban farmers also often end up with roosters by mistake because it can be difficult to tell the sex of a chicken. Noisy, aggressive and producing no eggs, roosters are prime candidates for shelters or sanctuaries, adding to the issue.
NBC reports that Farm Sanctuary, based in Watkins Glen, NY, has more than 200 backyard chickens between its three shelters currently waiting for new homes. National Shelter Director Susie Coston told NBC that the sanctuary sees more than double that every year; and many of the chickens are abused and sickly. “They’re put on Craigslist all the time when they don’t lay any more,” said Coston. “They’re dumped all the time.”
Some animal rights activists are blaming “foodies” and the rise in the locavore movement for displacing the birds, who are smart and have unique personalities. “It’s the stupid foodies,” Britton Clouse of Minnesota’s Chicken Run Rescue told NBC. “We’re just sick to death of it.”
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