Urban Chicken Owners Abandoning Pets In Record Numbers

By Jessica Rawden 2013-07-07 14:32:58
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The raising of chickens in urban environments has become more popular in recent years, thanks to hipster attitudes and trends in certain neighborhoods. In many ways, this isn’t a bad thing. For a few years, it means households have access to eggs from laying hens. It also means urban households get the opportunity to interact with creatures that are traditionally seen in farm environments and to learn the discipline needed to take care of the creatures. However, once the hens stop laying eggs, they are being taken to shelters at alarming rates.

A hen will lay eggs for roughly two years after becoming full grown. That same hen can live for nearly a decade after it stops laying eggs. Once there is no reward for taking care of the feathered friend of humanity, plenty of spoiled humans each year seem to think it’s alright to abandon their pets.

From California to New York City, urban dwellers have begun to return chickens to shelters at alarming rates. According to NBC News, sometimes dozens of chickens a day are turned into shelters. The increase of chickens dropped off has been noted at shelters across the country for years, with the Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis noting while only 50 chickens were brought in in 2001, more than 500 were dropped off in 2012. The owner of that outlet, Mary Britton Clouse, told the news outlet that people just get in well over their heads.
“People don’t know what they’re doing. 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.”

On the opposite side of the issue, advocates for backyard farming and chicken raising say a few assholes shouldn’t stand in the way of new ordinances that are allowing people to keep small flocks of chickens. Backyardchickens.com, a site for this new community of urban chicken owners, now boasts over 200,000 members, which owner Rob Ludlow says has grown from just 50 members over the last several years. He also says that most people will keep the pets, even after they stop laying eggs.
“While we definitely want to see more education around the lifespan and laying lifespan of chickens, we find that most people become so attached to their hens as pets, that even though they planned to eat or cull their hens at the end of their laying life, they decide to keep their girls around even without laying eggs.”

With more community members, it would make sense that the community would add a few members who are ill-educated and ill-equipped to continue raising the chickens after they stop laying eggs. Still, if hundreds of chickens are being dropped off at each shelter a year, that could indicate a larger problem that should be addressed via education or other means. With a little luck, maybe the chicken trend will die down before the little creatures run rampant in the city, much like the early days of Washington, D.C .
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