WARNING: NO LONGER CUTE
WARNING: NO LONGER CUTE.
Stewart Black

What’s happening to the birds that backyard hobbyists are too chicken to kill once they’re past their egg-laying prime? NBC reports that they’re ending up in animal shelters:

Hundreds of chickens, sometimes dozens at a time, are being abandoned each year at the nation’s shelters from California to New York as some hipster farmers discover that hens lay eggs for two years, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive.

It’s not clear from this report what portion of these birds are adopted once they’ve been dumped at the shelters. Chicken Run Rescue, one of the groups profiled, has stringent adoption terms:

  • commitment for the life of the bird. Chickens can live 14 years and so require the same commitment as dogs and cats.
  • prohibit slaughter, breeding, fighting or exhibit
  • limit adoption only as a companion animal not a food animal (not to produce eggs for profit or breeding purposes)
  • guarantee to provide proper care including food, water shelter, fresh air, exercise, companionship with other same species animals and veterinary care as for any other companion animal
  • allow inquiries about the care of this animal at any time
  • prohibit birds to be given away or sold without consent of CRR
  • comply with the laws and ordinances enforced in the state and municipality
  • certify that no one in the household/property where the animal will reside has been charged with or convicted of animal abuse in any state.

One suggested solution: All future articles on the joys of backyard chickening should include a PSA explaining to enthusiasts just how long chickens lay eggs and, by contrast, just how long they live. Or baby chickens should come with a big label:

WARNING: Chicken will produce eggs for 1-3 years, live for 7-14.

And it should have a picture of an angry, grown-up chicken hassling you about when you’re getting married or whatever it is that older chickens do to deal with empty nest syndrome.