Autodidacts Creating Culture

Five Options for Unwanted Urban Chickens


People want chickens but they don’t know what to do with them once they stop laying.  Listen up.  Their laying stage doesn’t last!  

I wanted to share a few options for what to do with them when that happens, based on twenty-four years of experience raising poultry.

I read in The Week in a mini-column titled “Only in America” that:

“Animal shelters in many U.S. cities are reporting a surge in the number of abandoned chickens.  Tiffany Young, founder of a Seattle animal rescue group, says the problem is “hipster urban yuppie types” trying to raise poultry in their backyards–and giving up when they realize it’s hard work.”  There’s not a sanctuary in the Northwest that is not at capacity or beyond,” said Young.

I don’t think the reason why people give up on them is due to hard work.  I think it’s because they stop laying eggs and they don’t want them after that. 

Over the years, I’ve received emails and phone calls from people asking: “Do you want my chicken?”  Hell no, I don’t!  (I think that.  I don’t really say that.)  And the reason why is because new birds don’t integrate well with an existing flock.  Anyway, I find those requests totally irritating.  I wish people did more research about chickens before they acquired them.  

If you want chickens, great.  All you need is an raccoon-proof and a weather-proof enclosure for them at night; an automatic water and food feeder; and space for them to roam around.  They really aren’t a hassle–except if they get in your garden.  

My family and I raise them as chicks and keep them–as long as they are laying.   

But before you go and get yourself some cute chicks, please consider what you’ll want to do with the birds that stop laying. 

Here are a few options in no ranking order:

1.  Butcher the bird and eat it.  

I know this sounds heart-less, but if they aren’t doing their job, we eat them.  Hey, it’s expensive to feed them organic food.  Organic laying pellets are  twice the cost of the regular stuff.  Our chickens aren’t our pets.  We don’t name them.  

2.  Find someone to take the bird off of your hands and kill it and eat it for you.

I can understand why people can’t handle killing their birds.  It’s difficult to kill an animal.  If you spend enough time with your birds and handle them often, you realize they have a personality. When people ask me if we want to kill and eat their chickens, I tell them, “No!”  Egg layers don’t have much meat on them.  Their meat is tough meat; and it’s more work than it’s worth to do that job.

3.  Keep the bird as a pet.

Forget the eggs and just enjoy your fowl as pets.  Or, find someone else who wants one as a pet.  It’s nice to have them around because they like to eat kitchen scraps.  Food is never wasted.  Some of the breeds are very attractive and are cool to look at.  Watching them run is hilarious.

4.  Get someone else (who has a flock of chickens already) to take the bird as a pet.

Honestly, I don’t think this works.  Chickens don’t integrate well with birds they haven’t grow up with.  I’ve taken a neighbor’s birds and I’ll never do it again.  A flock generally snubs newcomers indefinitely.  They even attack them.

5.  Give the bird to a wildlife hospital or to a reptile store and let them feed the bird to their animals.

I have a friend who did this and it is a viable option.

6.  Let the chicken become prey to raccoons or owls by not putting them into a secure place at night.

If they don’t have a safe enclosure at night, they’ll eventually be discovered by raccoons and killed.  But it’s it’s awful to hear their shrill screams in the night when this happens.  And the raccoons don’t eat much of the bird.


 If you can think of any other options for unwanted urban chickens, please comment.  I’m interested!:-)

6 Responses to “Five Options for Unwanted Urban Chickens”

  1. wewerenothing

    Eating your own chickens is hard. We used to do that in Jamaica. Every other Sunday, roast beef. Every other Sunday, kill a chicken and eat it. Sad, but that is the farm life. You learn where you food comes from and that is a great lesson. That pot roast was bought at the butcher’s and this kid didn’t realize that a whole big cow had been slaughtered so I could have a good Sunday meal.

    • Kristin

      Hi Kay,

      It’s not hard for us to eat our own chickens, as long as we don’t eat them on the same day that we butcher them. The hardest part is of course *the act*. Once we process them into the recognizable form found in a super market, it’s no big deal. The flavor is great!

      I can only imagine what your life was like in Jamaica. Do the chickens run free there? They’ve become semi-wild birds in some places I’ve visited like Maui, where there are few predators.

  2. Stefaneener

    I remember how much of a storm I stirred up when I suggested that people who got chickens without thinking it all the way through — chick to corpse — weren’t being responsible. It’s a hard lesson.

    • Kristin

      Hi Stefaneener,

      You wrote: “…people who g(e)t chickens without thinking it all the way through — chick to corpse — (a)ren’t being responsible. It’s a hard lesson.”

      Although I didn’t come right out and write this explicitly in my post, “you took the words write out of my mouth!” (Hmmm….I wonder if it is implied.)

      Thank you for writing this and for dropping in.

  3. Beauty Along the Road

    No. 1 works for us. My husband found a doable solution for the killing that doesn’t involve cutting their heads off – shooting them, much cleaner and less traumatic.
    We’ve had a lot of luck integrating a dozen young chickens into the larger herd. Maybe because they kept together as a group, the others didn’t mess with them.
    Also, when you start them young, you don’t always know whether you got a rooster in with the hens. More than one rooster in the chicken yard is usually not a good idea. So, sorry extra roosters – see No. 1

    • Kristin

      Hi Beauty,

      You must live in the country, lucky you!

      I can’t say your option of shooting your chickens worked for us. That’s what my husband tried when we first got started with this endeavor. The bird kept walking around like nothing happened (lol).

      By law we can’t have roosters in the city, and we are limited to five birds. The one time we had a rooster, by mistake, it drove me nuts! I didn’t realize that they cock-a-doodle-do all day long and in the middle of the night. I prefer to hear the rooster call from a distance, in fact I enjoy it from afar.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: