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!:-)