“Backyard chickens dumped at shelters when hipsters can‘t cope, critics say.”
While this headline and the story that accompanies it may sound like an article out of the satirical newspaper “The Onion,” they are in fact from the NBC News site and writer JoNel Aleccia.
“Hundreds of chickens, sometimes dozens at a time, are being abandoned each year at the nation‘s shelters from California to New York as some hipster farmers discover that hens lay eggs for two years*, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive.”
* Note: Although Aleccia states that chickens only lay eggs for two years, there are differing opinions on this subject. Some chickens will continue to lay eggs until late in their lives, although the number of eggs can decline after their second molt.
The story goes on to cite a Humane Society spokesperson and a number of no-kill rescue facilities, which have seen a huge increase in abandoned backyard chickens over the last five years. The two no-kill rescue facilities quoted saw nearly 1000 chickens dropped on their doorsteps in 2012 alone!
Mary Britton Clouse (owner of Chicken Run Rescue) saw her rescues rise from 20 in 2001 to almost 500 in 2012.
“She traces that rise to the so-called ‘locavore’ movement, which spiked in popularity in 2008 as advocates urged people to eat more food grown and processed close to home.
‘It’s the stupid foodies,’ said Britton Clouse, 60, who admits she speaks frankly. ‘We’re just sick to death of it.'”
Naturally, to keep the piece “balanced,” Rob Ludlow, an author and backyard chicken enthusiast, is quoted in the middle of the piece about how wonderful it is to keep “pets that make you breakfast” and how abused and abandoned chickens are rare. He also says that many people love their chickens so much that instead of killing them after they stop laying, even though they had planned to, they end up keeping them as pets… Thankfully Aleccia doesn’t let the piece end there.
She goes on to state that the majority of backyard farmers get their chicks from the same hatcheries that large factory farms do. These are the same hatcheries that involve large-scale layer operations, and suffocate or grind alive male chicks during the sexing process (not to mention “de-beaking” young chicks and other cruel and often deadly practices.)
This is a reminder that even for those select backyard chicken “farmers” who give adequate care to their hens (shelter, medical attention, appropriate feed, etc.) and plan to keep their chickens for the 12+ years or so that they will not be laying, there is a trail of tortured layer hens, and dead chicks in their wake…
JoNel Aleccia does a good job of beginning to open the dialogue about the reality of small scale animal operations and their ethical implications, but there is a whole lot more to the story:
The reality is that raising “local” and “home-grown” animals will never be humane or ethical, nor is it possible to supply the demand for animal products and flesh in any manner. Small-scale “hipster” farmers are simply getting a taste of what it means to treat a living, breathing animal as a product, and it appears that many don’t have the stomach for it.
If you would like to have a chicken friend, don‘t buy or breed. Adopt and give sanctuary instead of slavery to one of the thousands of chickens in need of a home.