Monday, November 25, 2013

Are Hipsters & Foodies Abandoning Chickens

A few months ago, we published an newspaper article to our Facebook page that described how chickens are now showing up at animal shelters. 


One of many articles addressing abandonment of urban chickens

In the intervening number of weeks, we've seen this same topic covered in a variety of publications. The headline for these various articles tends to point the blame at "Hipsters" and "Foodies" who abandon their chickens once they stop laying eggs, or who discover the amount of work involved in their upkeep. The "Hipster" and "Foodie" headlines originate from a statement made by Mary Britton Clouse, who runs a chicken rescue operation. Here's the quote:

"It's the stupid foodies. We're just sick to death of it....People don't know what their doing."

Ms. Clouse rescues animals in the Minneapolis area and also maintains a web site that educates potential chicken owners. She points out some inconvenient truths about the poultry industry which everyone needs to consider. 

We're glad to see the media cover this issue, however, we think it's unfortunate that the focus of attention is on "hipsters" because its portrays the problem as one caused by a group of callous trendies. We believe the problem is more nuanced and wide-spread.

While we don't have any data on this, we believe that people bring their chickens to shelters because they mistakenly think they acting humanely. When a chickens' egg production begins to decline, the owner is faced with a dilemma; If they want to have a steady supply of eggs and have limited coop space, they need to either "cull" the flock, or find some other way to make room for new birds. Under such circumstances, owners may feel the most humane solution is to offer their chickens up for adoption without really understanding how difficult it will be to find homes for these birds. 
My future is in your hands.

If this is the case, then the problem is not isolated to a group of "foodies" or "hipsters," (read: selfish snobs). Rather, it is, and will continue to be, a more persistent and widespread problem. In our opinion, a solution will require better education of prospective owners.

Our strategy for maintaining a sustainable flock is to recognize and accommodate the decline in egg production and not to cull the flock. Initially, we built a larger coop and purchased fewer chickens. We then add new chickens to the flock every few years. The flock size grew over time but stabilized when some chickens died of natural causes. As a result, the size of our flock now stays about the same and we get enough eggs for our family's needs.  We feed and care for our birds for as long as they live and worry about whether they are laying much or not. This flock management strategy doesn't produce the cheapest eggs, but our goal isn't to produce the cheapest eggs.  This strategy may not work for all owners. The point is, that owners need to have a strategy; dropping them off at a shelter isn't the right approach.


Depending on your flock management strategy, this coop may be way too small.

To help educate folks on this subject, we are going to write a publish a checklist for perspective owners to help them make better personal decisions.

If you have thought on what should be on this checklist, please post a comment.


Posting sponsored by ChickenWaterer.com, makers of the BriteTap Poultry Waterer. The BriteTap chicken waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out. 





3 comments:

  1. Good article -- I'm amazed no one has commented yet. I noticed the photo of the tiny coop and your comment about coop size. This is a "hobby-horse" of mine. So many places -- Costco, Williams-Sonoma, PetSmart, etc. -- sell very tiny coops that are completely impractical. The small foot print of these coops is attractive to buyers who probably envision a bounty of eggs. As an experienced chicken keeper, I am often asked by friends and acquaintances for advice on chickens. Many are astonished at the size of both my house and run. Especially since I have a small flock of bantams. It's like keeping any other animals. The more room they have the less work they are.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I agree, more room means less trouble.

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  2. My flock management has evolved the same way yours has. I used to cull hens many years ago by butchering them. Now I see that as too harsh, and all my hens live out their natural lives. Like you I add two or three chicks when egg production is too low, so I keep a larger flock than I had when culling. Now I'm truly showing my gratitude to my hens by giving them dignified natural lives.

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