By Karen Davis, Ph.D.,
United Poultry Concerns
It’s nice that real live chickens are making a comeback in some people’s minds and yards, but urban chicken-keeping involves significant problems. With the increased popularity of urban flocks, animal shelters are being flooded with calls to take in unwanted birds. How many municipalities are prepared to “develop facilities to shelter abandoned chickens.”
Many urban chicken-keepers purchase chickens by mail order from industrial hatcheries - ironically, for “closer ties to nature,” although nothing is farther from nature than a mass-production hatchery. People ordering chickens this way often are surprised at how sickly the birds are, not realizing that the hatchery experience plus the shipping ordeal weakens the birds’ immune systems, predisposing them to illness and early death.
As well, people often are surprised to discover that their order of female chicks includes unwanted roosters in the shipping box, adding to the abandonment of countless roosters.
Sickly birds, unwanted roosters, and people getting tired of their pet chickens - who actually demand much more care than suppliers’ cheery Websites indicate - have already resulted in thousands of castoff birds, many desperately in need of veterinary care. The burden of handling these sick, abandoned and unwanted birds falls largely to municipal animal shelters, diverting scant resources from other animal care services.
If responsible people want to keep a few chickens and the zoning allows it, the best way is to adopt birds from a shelter or sanctuary and be ready to provide the quality care, including veterinary care, that chickens need and deserve.