The hipster trend of urban farming has started to backfire across the nation, the owners of two farm animal rescue services tell NBC News.
As urbanites from Portland to Austin to New York discover that their pet chickens only lay eggs for a couple of years, while continuing to live on for up to a decade, more and more backyard chickens are showing up in shelters.
“It’s the stupid foodies,” Mary Britton Clouse, who runs Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, told NBC. “We’re just sick to death of it.”
The owners of Watkins Glen, New York-based Farm Sanctuary felt the same way, telling NBC reporter JoNel Aleccia that they’re caring for hundreds of former backyard chickens. “They’re put on Craigslist all the time when they don’t lay any more,” shelter director Susie Coston reportedly said.
While the idea of owning a pet that also produces breakfast can be especially appealing to many enamored with the trend of hyperlocal, all-organic, nose-to-tail dining, Chicken Run Rescue recommends prospective urban farmers take several things into account before making the leap.
They specifically advise people not to buy chicks from hatcheries, as most have been discarded for being either unhealthy or male, which don’t lay eggs and can often be quite noisy once they grow up to be roosters. Additionally, the shelter says that many of the chicks often die in transit.
There are also many local ordinances that ban residents from owning a flock of chickens if they live in densely populated urban areas, so it is important to ask local zoning officials whether the activity is permitted. And once you do have a chicken, advocates recommend caring for it just like you would a feline or canine pet, especially making sure it has adequate food, water and shelter.
“As organizations with limited resources and space, it is no longer feasible to take in even a small percentage of these unwanted animals,” eight animal shelters explained in a 2011 “collective statement” on backyard chickens (PDF). “Even with placement assistance, most of these chickens, particularly roosters, do not find permanent placement. This leaves municipal dog and cat shelters the task of taking in, housing, feeding, caring for, and inevitably killing healthy, adoptable chickens.”
[“Stock Photo: Photo Of Serious Man Holding White Hen In Hands And Looking At Camera” on Shutterstock.]