For a long time I’ve been hoping that one of my neighbors would start raising backyard chickens, because I love eggs but never wanted to raise the chickens myself. Raising chickens just seemed like too much work, no matter how cute the $100,000 Neiman Marcus chicken coop was. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of chicken owners have come to the same conclusion, and unwanted urban chickens are flooding into animal shelters.
The idea of raising chickens seems quaint and bucolic, and I can definitely see how it would be delightful to blog about a pair of pretty heirloom chickens named Esmerelda and Potato, who had wacky antics and laid bright-yolked eggs with blue shells. But chickens are loud, and messy, and they actually require veterinary care like any animal, which is why I just crossed my fingers that a very responsible and animal-loving neighbor would start raising chickens and have plenty of leftover eggs they would want to trade for something produced at my house. (I don’t know, maybe cat hair.)
But as the shine wears off the urban chicken trend, it seems like a lot of urban farmers have come to the conclusion that raising chickens really is too much work. And chickens live much longer than people expect. A hen lays eggs for about two years, but can live 10 more than that. Is Esmerelda still fun when she’s not laying bright-colored eggs for you?
Apparently not, because hundreds of urban chickens are winding up on Craigslist or in animal shelters when their owners realize that keeping chickens is a lot of work.
“Many areas with legalized hen-keeping are experiencing more and more of these birds coming in when they’re no longer wanted,” Paul Shapiro, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, said to NBC. “You get some chicks and they’re very cute, but it’s not as though you can throw them out in the yard and not care for them.”
Mary Britton-Clouse of the Chicken Run Rescue told NBC that she had 50 chickens surrendered to her chicken rescue back in 2001. In 2012 she got nearly 500.
“It’s the stupid foodies,” she said. “We’re just sick to death of it.”
“People don’t know what they’re doing,” she continued. “And you’ve got this whole culture of people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing teaching every other idiot out there.”
Britton-Clouse is pretty harsh about it, but getting 500 chickens dumped on them in a single year would annoy anybody. Of course, there’s always the traditional solution for non-laying hens. But a lot of backyard chicken enthusiasts balk at the idea of wringing their hens’ necks.
Several chicken rescuers say that chickens actually make really good companion pets, but it’s important for prospective chicken owners to realize that they are not low-maintenance animals.
Read more at NBC.
(Image: Neiman Marcus)