Chicken Abandonment: Let's Do the Math

Today, the Community Chicken web site ran an article on chicken abandonment. We've seen quite a number of articles on this subject in the last few month.
Doesn't anyone love me?
Essentially, these reports suggest that “Hipsters” and “Foodies” (read snobs) are abandoning flocks in huge numbers and that it's creating a problem for shelters. In November of last year, we published an article on this subject and suggested that people are probably taking animals to shelters because they mistakenly feel this is a humane solution. In other words, it’s not just a bunch of callous individuals losing interest in chickens and dumping their birds.

In our opinion, the quality of the journalism on this subject in the media is pretty poor. Not one of these news reports even bothers to place the abandonment rate in perspective for readers. We really don’t know whether chicken abandonment is any worse than with any other type of pet. Here’s some basic math that may help….

According to the Humane Society, there are about 175 million dogs and cat living as pets in American households. Every year, 6-8 million of these pets are brought to animal shelters (3-5% of the dog and cat population) 

There really aren’t good figures on how many backyard chickens there are but it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that there are 12 million chickens, so an abandonment rate of 3-5% would translate into 360,000-600,000 chickens abandoned each year. If shelters aren’t used to taking chickens, it’s no wonder they might feel there’s a “chicken problem” all of a sudden. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned. Rather, that the problem is not particularly isolated to chickens. 


  1. It's good to share this information as widely as possible so people who aren't well prepared for the realities of raising chickens understand that it doesn't work for all. It's like the people who get their child a bunny for Easter - while many are successfully adopted, some are 'returned'.

    As for me, I have my first chicks in a brooder right now. I have done months and months of research covering photos of bloody poo to cute chick pics - from awful chicken diseases to colored eggs. I may fail miserably - yes. But, I am as well prepared and as educated as I can be. Your point about the abandoned chickens perhaps not being greater than abandoned dogs and cats is a very good one. Not everyone is meant to be a pet parent regardless of the animal.

    On a separate note, I hope the label of a "Foodie" as a "snob" in your article did not come from you, but rather the general sources you are referring to. Some people think foodies are judgmental, fussy types. Yet, to label someone a snob is the epitome of judgment. Being a foodie has surpassed the initial trendiness, and is now a valid part of our culture, it touches nearly every area of the world - all the way to yak butter tea in Tibet. The "foodie" society has supplied millions of jobs world-wide that might not otherwise exist. While different people take it in many directions (for the life of me, I can't fathom the craze around cake-pops for instance) - it has many benefits, especially for the small farmer. Many of these "foodies" are seeking out more natural, organic, healthy food options, and are willing to pay $7/dozen eggs. I see this as a win-win. Finally, some us foodies have gone to culinary school, and have advanced degrees in studying food - we know our 'stuff' - we're not just someone who raves about the nuances of which tequila makes the smoothest margaritas (Don Julio Reposado is one of my favorites). :-)


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