Abandoned chickens – are they a problem?
Jones Natural Chews is concerned with animals and their welfare, and especially with the animal-human bond. We donate monthly to non-profits which help humans and their pets, like PACT for Animals, as well as to fundraisers designed to aid dogs and pets in need. But do we help chickens? We certainly use chicken in our treats. And the last few years have seen a rise in abandoned chickens in the US.
I’m going to step out on a limb here and make a distinction between factory chickens, farm-raised chickens, and pet, or backyard, chickens. This will help us determine a couple of things – what is food and what is pet. Because, I believe, abandoned chickens really are becoming a problem in many cities.
Factory chickens are those raised for food, either as meat, or as egg layers. There seem to be two distinctions in factory chickens – caged birds:
and cage free:
Yeah. These birds are raised for food. They don’t have very long lives. They’re not being raised as pets at all. We eat them and their by-products, eggs. While I agree with many that things need to change in the way we house and raise these birds, until our appetites change, that’s not going to happen. Which is why I love –
Farm-raised, or true free-range, chickens
Farm-raised chickens are honest. They’re raised by a family or group as food or layers, and typically are butchered by that same family or group. Yes, they’re going to be food. But what more honest way to eat meat than to butcher it yourself? You’re likely to eat it less often, more sparingly on the plate, with more respect for its origins and well-being while alive. Farm raised chicken meat and eggs will cost more, but it will be worth every penny, knowing where it comes from and how it was raised.
Pet, or backyard, chickens
And here’s where the abandoned chickens come in. The backyard breeders and raisers. Not only do backyard chickens get abandoned, they’re turned in to shelters all over the country. I raise chickens. I never wanted chickens. It wasn’t originally my decision. I was totally against having hens for these reasons:
- Chickens are dirty and stinky
- Chickens attract rodents, which aggravates neighbors
- Chickens are work, daily
- Chickens can be expensive to keep in town
- Chickens can be loud
- Chickens attract predators
- There aren’t many avian vets with chicken experience in the city
- Cities don’t always look fondly on, or have friendly laws concerning chickens
In addition, chickens are cannibals. They LOVE Jones Natural Chews chicken taffy. Rotisseried chicken. KFC. True story. But chickens are livestock. People raise livestock as pets, yes, but this particular creature has become trendy in recent years, leading to abandoned chickens all over the country. Look, I’m not even saying that this is worse than the abandoned cats and dogs in shelters everywhere. But it’s different. Per my points above, chickens are more difficult to raise and care for, being livestock. Not necessarily high maintenance, but certainly not as easy to find help for once something goes wrong. And I’m thinking it’s not so easy to adopt out an abandoned chicken.
I love my hens. LOVE my hens. But I went into chicken ownership with my eyes wide open, and I still wasn’t prepared for it. The heartbreak of a favorite hen being killed by a hawk or possum. The trauma of a hen pecking out the eye of another hen, like Legolas, above. A mouse infestation. The smell. Keeping them cool in summer and warm in winter. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I don’t recommend it to everyone who thinks they want it.
Do your homework
Bottom line? Do your homework. Talk to backyard chicken owners. Visit homes which keep chickens. Ask tons of questions. Ask about the worst parts of chicken ownership. Join urban farm and chicken groups on Facebook and online. Educate yourself. Then count the cost, not just in money, but as a neighbor, as a parent, as a dog mom or dad. Be honest about whether or not you want to take a vacation again in the next ten years, because chickens live about that long. And please, don’t abandon chickens. If you’re to that point, EMAIL ME. I’ll help in any way I can, whether it’s finding a group local to you which will rehome your hens, or whatever it takes. Seriously. flea at jonesnaturalchews dot com.
Now! Go enter Beef Saddle Knuckle giveaway! It’ll make your dog smile, just knowing you entered. Naturally.
Until I write again …