In addition to high-rent dwellings, celebrity animal husbandry, and completely unnecessary accessorizing, the topic of urban chicken abandonment/retirement has (naturally) been tackled before here on MNN.
However, it’s apparently an issue greater in scope than imagined as, according to NBCNews, “hundreds” of chickens across the country are flooding animal shelters and farm sanctuaries by “disillusioned city dwellers” and “hipster farmers” who have no interest in hanging on to the “noisy, messy, labor-intensive, and expensive” pets once they’ve passed their egg-laying prime (hens only lay eggs for a couple of years, if that, and can, if healthy, live as much as a decade longer).
It’s also an issue that’s put proponents of urban agriculture and backyard chickening at odds with overwhelmed hen foster parents left to deal with the cast-off domestic fowl once they’ve been unceremoniously dumped by their owners because they’re no longer cute, have fallen ill, and/or are no longer capable of putting delicious omelets on the table.
In the latter camp is Mary Britton Clouse, sharp-tongued (and rather dead-on) proprietress of Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, Minn. She’s noticed a dramatic spike in surrendered birds in recent years, claiming that in 2001 the number of abandoned chickens left in her care was less than 50. Last year, the number nearly topped 500. Britton Clouse single handedly blames the locavore movement and those damned irresponsible city slickers drawn to chicken-keeping by a "misplaced rural nostalgia.”
“It’s the stupid foodies. We’re just sick to death of it,” explains Britton Clouse who places the abandoned birds, both hens and roosters, into loving new homes with strict adoption terms. “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.”
Susie Coston, National Shelter Director for bi-coastal farm animal rescue operation the Farm Sanctuary, harbors similar sentiments as her enraged compatriot in Minneapolis, explaining that Craiglist is ripe with unwanted urban cluckers: “They’re just dumped all the time." Coston hopes that the backyard chickening fad will eventually die off: “To go back in time sounds wonderful. But there is not enough land on this earth to sustain the amount of meat, dairy and milk that people want," she tells NBCNews.
Folks such as Rob Ludlow, author, urban chickening proselytizer, and the man responsible for BackYardChickens.com would rather not see the backyard hen-keeping movement go away provided that newbie practioners approach it in a responsible, educated manner. Unlike Coston and Britton Clouse, he believes that dedicated urban chicken owners giving abandoning non-egg-laying hens to be a “very rare” occurrence:
Hundreds of thousands of people are realizing the wonderful benefits of raising a small flock of backyard chickens, the pets that make you breakfast. 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.
My question to you, well-meaning backyard hobbyists: Have you ever invested in chickens and found yourself in over your head? Or did you know what you were in for?
Via [NBC News]
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