Leading Farm Animal Sanctuaries and Avian Experts Discourage Backyard Chicken Flocks

After Thursday's post called Raising Chickens at Home, we received a request from a coalition of animal sanctuaries to tell their side of the story. Below the fold is the news release they sent us.

I think a lot of people will feel that these groups are overreacting. The point that needs to be made, though, is that before a person takes on a project like raising chickens (or any other kind of livestock, or even a pet), it is important to think through the whole project carefully, and make sure that it is a project you can manage and are willing to stick with. Are you willing to learn the details, and put in the investment needed to care for the chickens properly? What will you do if it turns out that you have unwanted male(s) in the chicks you buy? How will you "unwind" the project, if you decide you are in over your head?

Leading Farm Animal Sanctuaries and Avian Experts Discourage Backyard Chicken Flocks

Coalition Concerned with Chicken Welfare React to Increased Placement Requests for Unwanted Birds

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – December 11, 2009 – Reacting to the increased popularity of backyard chicken flocks used for eggs in urban and suburban areas, a coalition of animal sanctuaries, comprising leading experts in avian care, has issued a public statement discouraging this trend. Coalition members include Animal Place in California, Chicken Run Rescue in Minnesota, Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center in Vermont, Farm Sanctuary in New York and California, Sunnyskies Bird and Animal Sanctuary in New York, and United Poultry Concerns in Virginia. This coalition is also urging municipalities throughout the U.S. not to allow backyard flocks and exhorting those that are already zoned for this practice to establish and enforce strict regulations for the care of these birds.

In the past year, all of these organizations have been inundated with calls to take in chickens, especially roosters, the main victims of this growing trend. As these groups have limited resources and space, it has become increasingly difficult for them to house or otherwise place the hundreds of roosters who are abandoned at local shelters or dumped needing homes.

The coalition’s statement asserts that backyard chicken-keeping by hobbyists raises many serious concerns regarding both the welfare of the chickens and the wellbeing of the communities where these birds are kept.

Unbeknownst to many well-meaning hobbyists, the massive hatcheries from which most chicks are purchased by individuals or feed stores are notorious for animal mistreatment. No laws regulate the housing of chickens at these facilities and minimal laws that go unenforced cover transportation of their offspring. Breeding hens and roosters may be confined in cramped cages or sheds with no access to the outdoors, and day-old chicks are shipped to buyers through the mail, deprived of food and water and exposed to extremes in temperature for up to 72 hours. Hens are in much higher demand than roosters; therefore, most males chicks are killed onsite at these hatcheries as soon as they are sexed, adding up to millions of birds every year that are killed shortly after they hatch.

Among the recent flood of requests to place chickens, shelters have received a particularly high number of calls regarding roosters. Chicken sexing at hatcheries is inexact and prone to error, and hatcheries may use male chicks as “packing material” regardless of whether they were ordered. These male chickens, often unwanted and illegal to keep in certain municipalities, are frequently abandoned or dumped at local shelters. If homes cannot be found for these birds with individuals or sanctuaries, they are often euthanized or literally tossed into the street. When new ordinances are passed to allow the keeping of backyard flocks, municipal shelters are then burdened further with new enforcement costs. The coalition is encouraging those considering backyard flocks to do their research on the legality of chicken flocks in their area and the housing, predator proofing, diet, and medical care necessary for the health and safety of their birds. Those acquiring chickens are asked to avoid supporting the cruel practices of hatcheries by adopting chickens from sanctuaries and shelters.

The coalition’s full position statement on backyard chicken flocks can be viewed here.

Animal Place, founded in 1989, is home to more than 300 cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits and turkeys in Northern California. In addition to providing refuge to neglected farmed animals, Animal Place educates the public about factory farming through tours, tabling, legislation and outreach programs. More information can be found at www.animalplace.org or by calling 707-449-4814.

About Chicken Run Rescue: Every year, domestic fowl, mostly chickens, are impounded by Minneapolis Animal Control (MACC) and 5 Metro Area humane societies. These birds are victims of neglect, abuse and abandonment, sometimes used as a source of eggs or intended for slaughter, fighting or ritual sacrifice. Some are the discarded outcome of “nature lessons” for children or after a hobby that no longer holds interest. After their release from MACC, Chicken Run provides the birds with temporary shelter and vet care, locates and screens adopters within 90 miles of the Twin Cities and transports the birds to their new homes. Chicken Run Rescue is the only urban chicken rescue of its kind and receives no support from any other organizations, institutions or agencies and depends entirely on donations and sales of art merchandise to continue helping chickens. There is a special need for rooster homes. Don't breed or buy — Adopt! There are never enough homes for displaced animals.

Eastern Shore Sanctuary & Education Center, currently located in Vermont, provides a haven for hens, roosters and ducks who have escaped or been rescued from the meat and egg industries or other abusive circumstances. The Eastern Shore Sanctuary consistently provides homes to both male and female victims of cockfighting, and has developed an innovative and effective method to deprogram fighting cocks so that they can live normal lives. In addition to sheltering and advocating for birds, we conduct research and education aimed at systemic changes in agriculture, trade, consumption, and human attitudes about animals and the environment. We work within an ecofeminist understanding of the interconnection of all life and the intersection of all forms of oppression. Thus we welcome and work to facilitate alliances among animal, environmental, and social justice activists. Additional information can be found at www.bravebirds.org or by calling (802) 885-4017.

Farm Sanctuary is the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. Since incorporating in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to expose and stop cruel practices of the "food animal" industry through research and investigations, legal and institutional reforms, public awareness projects, youth education, and direct rescue and refuge efforts. Farm Sanctuary shelters in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Orland, Calif., provide lifelong care for hundreds of rescued animals, who have become ambassadors for farm animals everywhere by educating visitors about the realities of factory farming. Additional information can be found at www.farmsanctuary.org or by calling 607-583-2225.

Sunnyskies Bird and Animal Sanctuary of Warwick, NY is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization providing lifetime care for unwanted animals. Home to over two hundred creatures, great and small, including spent hens, fighting cocks, kill pen horses, over one hundred parrots, cats, dogs — and 3 mice — Sunnyskies heals and provides a final resting place for what are often damaged and hopeless spirits in need. Sunnyskies goal is to bring health, joy, and peace to these individuals, many of who have suffered, for years —captives of unkind and uncaring human hands. http://www.sunnyskiesbirdsanctuary.org/

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. www.upc-online.org.

This coalition is also urging municipalities throughout the U.S. not to allow backyard flocks and exhorting those that are already zoned for this practice to establish and enforce strict regulations for the care of these birds....

In the past year, all of these organizations have been inundated with calls to take in chickens, especially roosters, the main victims of this growing trend. As these groups have limited resources and space, it has become increasingly difficult for them to house or otherwise place the hundreds of roosters who are abandoned at local shelters or dumped needing homes.

The logic: There are stupid, careless people that raise backyard chickens. Therefore, NO ONE should be allowed to raise backyard chickens.

Breeding hens and roosters may be confined in cramped cages or sheds with no access to the outdoors, and day-old chicks are shipped to buyers through the mail, deprived of food and water and exposed to extremes in temperature for up to 72 hours. Hens are in much higher demand than roosters; therefore, most males chicks are killed onsite at these hatcheries as soon as they are sexed, adding up to millions of birds every year that are killed shortly after they hatch.

Pity, isn't it, when you have hundreds of millions of people packed into a country, that you end up killing a bunch of roosters?

Tell them to do what we do here on the farm:

1. Wring their necks, bury them.

2. Wring their necks, eat them.

And some wonder why there are Doomers amongst us?

This kind of situation always happens when the line between raising livestock for food and livestock being raised as pets gets crossed. Each side of the issue has valid arguments and in the end it all becomes about politics.

Raising animals of any kind comes with responsibilities. Anyone considering raising chickens has to be realistic about the project. Chickens require daily care in the form of food, water and shelter. They need to be protected from both wild and domestic predators. Their pens have to be cleaned - which simply means getting rid of crap. They can and do get diseases and parasites, which means you have to be ready to deal with them. Sick, injured or old chickens may have to be put down (killed). If this is too difficult for you, don't raise chickens. There is no excuse for dropping off live chickens in someone else's neighborhood or area. Insofar as roosters are concerned, they are usually more bother than they are worth. Yes, I have "put down" several roosters as soon as their sex became apparent or when they have wandered onto the property where I live after someone abandoned them.

I give my birds good care, but I consider them first and foremost livestock. They serve a purpose, primarily laying eggs and, on a rare occasion, becoming the guest of honor for dinner. May I suggest that a shift to a more sustainable lifestyle requires a bit more of a pragmatic outlook on animals, particularly those that are potential providers of food or labor. Many years ago I raised and used huskies to work in my dog team. The tv shows, movies and articles on dog mushing rarely include the full story of dog mushing. It includes careful breeding, culling out most female pups, disposing of any young dogs that cannot hold their own with the team and putting down adult dogs before they became too old to keep up. Except for a rare few, retirement is not an option. I recall an Eskimo lady telling me how much she liked her favorite husky, Coolaid, while she was skinning its carcass for clothing material. The same perspective is common among traditional farmers and ranchers.

Echoes of abortion arguments, aboriginal land claims, gurus, and the ecofeminist movement, consensus publications. Oh doG.

We're top of the food chain, until the bacteria rebel because we changed their environment.

Berkeley did this to us. Ideology to the hundredth power.

"Berkeley did this to us"???
Do you mean the City, the University or the Bishop ?

Thank you for stating the obvious.

There are a few basic tendencies of things that are alive. One of them is to consume other life. It's a continuous cycle:

Life feeds on life;
feeds on life;
feeds on life;
repeat till the sun goes b00m.

Humans, despite any hand waving to the contrary, are animals; and are subject to this phenomena. For me to be alive, other things must die. There is no other way.

It's unfortunate that people could grow enough to compile this essay, form organizations, and build shelters; yet fail to understand the basics of life.

I propose that every person who eats meat, should have to kill at least one thing they eat. Only when you kill something with your own hands can you appreciate the sacrifice that animal made so you could be sustained another day.

What about plants, they have feelings too!

Peace, Love and vegetable rights!

It's interesting to watch fringe ideologues mocking other fringe ideologues.

Surely you realize the irony.

As usual, the 'might is right' and 'I cant give up my meat' crowd will always prevail and heckle the vegans. But perhaps, in the spirit of dialogue that is supposed to be the foundation of this and other typically reasonable discussion groups, we could consider the possibility that the idea of our 'right' to eat meat regularly is just another historical anomaly brought on by the fossil-fuel windfall of the last century and a half? If we've learned anything about the future, it's that we're going to have to all be more efficient, and food is one of the most critical areas of potential efficiency (and current inefficiency). To that end, the fact remains: Caloric intake derived entirely from plants is ALWAYS more efficient in terms of land/resource usage than going through the 'middle-man meat'.

It's also ALWAYS less healthy that a diet not entirely derived from plants.

Aside from that "fact" there does, in fact, exist land that is entirely unsuitable for growing plants for human consumption that does rather well as pasture land. The vegans would have the million or so people that live in my neck of the woods die of starvation for the sake of efficiency. The reality is that if every person on the planet switched to a meat free diet, a lot of land that could be used to raise animals with not be used to grow anything (that humans can consume). To that point, have you ever tried to grow vegetables or grain in the winter when it's 40 below and their's 2 feet of snow on the ground?

She'll be drivin' six white horses when she comes, etc.

Oh we'll all come out to meet her when she comes, etc.

We will kill the old red rooster when she comes, etc.

We'll be havin' chicken and dumplings when she comes, etc.

We'll all be shoutin' "Halleluja" when she comes, etc.

Perhaps they would be better to confine their cause and crusade to that of Confinement Chicken Farming.

I have been in chicken confinement buildings. We or most know of about what transpires there.
So I won't go into that but the homeraised chickens are surely given far more care that the other.

And if they have such endeavors in place then how come it is showing no results, confinement I speak of.

Likely the lobbyists and USDA are in control and will do as they like. Chickens live unbearable lives in these areas. Hogs as well and perhaps even worse. Veal calves are not much better.


Perhaps they would be better to confine their cause and crusade to that of Confinement Chicken Farming . . . Likely the lobbyists and USDA are in control and will do as they like. Chickens live unbearable lives in these areas. Hogs as well and perhaps even worse. Veal calves are not much better.

Exactly, Airdale. They are targeting the less powerful to achieve their goal, which is to limit and eventually ban people eating meat and animal products. This enrages me on so many levels. By fearmongering, they can and probably will be succesful in getting backyard chicken keeping banned in some places. Most city folk are so ignorant about chicken keeping (most of us are far removed from the production of our food, animal and vegetable, and what it entails) that they will be swayed by these arguments.

What will remain are large commercial producers, continuing BAU, inflicting horror and cruelty on many times more animals than are in backyards.


One of the major controversies during the early days of Southern California environmentalism involved Egg City. As I recall they brought in box car loads of milo and other feed. The chickens were apparently well fed but led a very crowded life.

"In 1961, Julius Goldman founded Egg City, which was a massive chicken farm north of Moorpark, with many chicken coops spread over acres of concrete with millions of chickens in them. The main building had a giant chicken statue on the top of it. Local residents were somewhat irked by the farm, when the smell of it wafted to Moorpark on windy days. The business suffered a setback in 1972, when more than 3 million chickens were slaughtered because of the threat of Newcastle disease. The farm finally closed in 1996. In early December 2006, a wildfire destroyed the dilapidated remains of Egg City."

This is ridiculous. Period. We live in a nation of 300 million different constituencies. Pleasing even 10 million of them at once will be a tall task.

This is ridiculous. Period.

Lighten up, guys. The question is not really about raising chickens. It is about what kind of city you want to live in. The animal rights types are raising the flag (they are so good at that), but there are a whole lot of other people who are uncomfortable with this idea, it's not a case of "insidious animal rights protesters infiltrate city council meeting."

I went to a well-attended neighborhood meeting on the proposed new Denver zoning code where the City Council representative asked the audience about the question of backyard chickens. The comments were just as overwhelmingly against the idea, as the comments on TheOilDrum.com are going in favor. Consensus: "the coyotes will settle this issue." Right now, coyotes and foxes killing cats and small dogs is a hot issue and people see chickens as just more coyote bait. And there's the question of slaughterhouses; a lot of people, not just (or even mainly) animal rights types, are uncomfortable with animal slaughtering in city limits.

Even experienced people have problems with chickens. Monroe Farms (of which I am a member), one of our local and long-standing CSAs, had trouble keeping foxes out and lost most of their chickens last year. Someone's dog kills someone's chicken, whose problem is this? Your neighbors aren't taking care of their chickens, whose problem is this? Chickens are running loose, whose problem is this? You got a rooster in the mail, whose problem is this? Your neighbor's yard smells, or there are rats are in your yard because of your neighbor's chickens, whose problem is this? Someone is going to have to police this operation: you need to think about how much it's going to cost, who's going to pay for it, and what kind of city you're going to live in as a consequence.

In the meantime (don't get me started -- oops, too late), there's the issue of solar access for gardens. People are building McMansions that shade your garden or even your solar panels, and in Denver right now you have no recourse. If you're interested in growing local and looking for zoning changes to make, I'd say concentrate on protecting garden space first.


NIMBY is going to kill us one day.

At issue for each and every city is going to each and every city's problems. I hope the issues that one city solves does not limit me in my city, that would be a shame.

In the crash era very little of this will be an issue. The city will want to keep out the hoardes wanting the food stocks, more than worrying about the rooster next door waking them up at sunrise.

Be of good cheer, drink a beer.
When the zombies come knocking,
Send them to the shelter place.
When you see the city burning,
Get your meat ready to grill.
Just make sure to save the still.

Doomer Poet,

Is this post a joke?

Raising chickens is one of the key skills we need for energy descent.

Seriously...Is this post a joke?

No, Dan. It's not a joke. They don't see the future we see so what they are advocating makes sense to them. To us it makes little sense.

They will learn in time.

Those who would micro manage the affairs of others nearby have a lesson to learn the hard way that is rather simple but one that escapes the anally retentive controlling mind.

Cops learn it quickly enough when they move from one jurisdiction to another.The lesson is that a community will ask for and STAND for only so much policing.

In a crowded working class city nieghborhood you must expect to see some cars repared in driveways, and a certain amount of other minor disorder is necessarily overlooked-lids playing in the street making enough noise to wake the dead for , riding thier bikes across the corner of a lawn,the occasional empty soda bottle tossed by the pedestrian in YOUR yard.

A couple of miles away such things across the line in a prosperous county will complaining about such things will get you a cop in five minutes.

When you tell people what to do , or what they can't do, past a certain point, they do it anyway, and very soon get comfortable with the idea that they are going to get away with breaking the rules.

The otherwise law abiding citizen who wants to smoke a little pot and pays for it by buying ounces ans selling three quarter ounce bags soon gets comfortable with the idea that if some other cash income comes his way there is no real likelihood that he will get caught for not paying tax on it.

Down this road lies freedom for the little people who in the future (that is now for so many of us ) will need every dime to live.

And thier prissy nieghbors may be damned glad to get a few black market eggss.

That was my first thought. "It's not April 1st, right?" It's hard to argue the rooster problem though. Everyone who wants a backyard flock should be required to show that they know how to properly slaughter a rooster. Mostly that would only be to make sure they aren't squeamish about what they're getting into.

I was in our food co-op last year. My wife and I saw a cockroach crawl out from under a cooler. I was just about to squash it, when some guy stepped forward and stopped me. That would be taking a life, he pointed out, and shooed it back under the cooler. Even my kids were blown away by the concept of protecting the life of a cockroach. Have to wonder what some people do about mosquitoes.

PETA has gone to far.

On one hand you don't want to just level all the forests and shoot all the animals you find. But on the other hand you need to know which animals you can kill to eat, which you can kill to protect yourself and your animals (farm and pet), and which animals you just shoo away.

Cockroaches fall into the stomp to death kind, as do fleas, ticks, leeches, knats, mosquitoes, and some wasps.

People seem to want to be able to be ethical toward everything living, it looks good on paper, but has real life drawbacks.

I would wonder if they had a knife in hand and a wolf trying to eat them if they would offer themselves up to the wolf, or try and kill him?


Or perhaps another example - if they had a cut that got infected, would they avoid using antibiotics and risk their lives? It actually sounds kind of Buddhist to protect a cockroach.

It does raise interesting questions related to what animals we are willing to eat and what ones we won't eat. In some ways the line is rather arbitrary. If you are horrified at mistreatment of a cat or a dog, ought you also be horrified at mistreatment of a chicken? Those of us who are not vegetarian are willing to eat chicken, but I bet very few of us would eat cat or dog. These are only questions that humans would find interesting - a cat would think nothing of catching a mouse or a bird and eating it. Cats just aren't very philosophical, it would seem.

To those who might argue that the PETA folks would starve while the rest of us are eating meat, I would argue that the situation is more likely to be the reverse. Raising animals for food takes a lot more energy than raising grains or vegetables, so those that are accustomed to not eating meat might find survival a lot easier than those folks who insist on eating it.

If you are horrified at mistreatment of a cat or a dog, ought you also be horrified at mistreatment of a chicken?


You're mixing up two issues here: mistreatment, and killing.

It's quite possible to be very ethical in our treatment of animals, right up until we kill them - and the killing can be done quickly and humanely - ethically.

For example, most people would at least wince at how cattle are killed, with a captive bolt gun that drives a bolt into their brain. They'd wince but could bear it, even if they couldn't bear doing it.

On the other hand, in many slaughterhourses, the CPB doesn't kill the beast, missing its brain, and it's still alive when it goes to the next step and is skinned. 5% of the beasts still living is the usual number allowed across the West.

Most people could not bear the idea of a still-conscious beast being skinned, even just one in twenty of them.

However, when we have to process hundreds of beasts a day through a single abattoir, it's inevitable that some of them will be still conscious when skinned. That is, mistreatment of animals is inevitable in industrialised agriculture.

Much the same goes for battery hens, pig pens where the pig can't lie down, caged veal calves, drift net fishing, and so on. Across the West we eat 100+kg of meat and fish each annually. To eat that amount, we simple have to have industrialised agriculture, which leads to unethical treatment.

1-30kg per person annually is a more reasonable amount of meat and fish, an amount allowing good nutrition in combination without draining the soil too much or requiring unethical treatment of animals.

To those who might argue that the PETA folks would starve while the rest of us are eating meat, I would argue that the situation is more likely to be the reverse.

In my experience, PETA and the more militant vegetarians are largely sheltered middle-class. Forget about killing animals when starving, they couldn't even grow a tomato. They've never got their hands dirty.

I eat a lot more milk products than meat. I do tend toward fish a lot as well as Large snails. I also know every plant in my yard that is edible and most the of the plants within about a mile of my house that are good for food. I'll not starve if I can't get cow or chicken for dinner.

I am sure there are regions of the world that almost any animal including Fido and Kitty are eaten, I seen videos of roast dog before. It might be only in the USA that this is such a big issue.

One time in my past I had 10 cats in the house, we gave 3 away and kept 7, along with the dog. Cats will eat it if they can catch it.

I'd not want the PETA person to starve, I'd feed them first, even though they might think about stoning me for eating fish and chicken for dinner.

Ah well, We will find out the winners and losers soon enough. Just be sure I get buried under a tree somewhere, oh and put rocks on top of the grave.



Not to argue the MERITS of eating or not eating meat but something that is often overlooked is that while we ARE still eating meat in quantity, we have a fallback position-not eating it and going mostly to grains and fruits/ veggies.

Once we are on the little or no meat track, we are totally at the mercy of fate in terms of a crop failure unless we get the population under control at the same time and build up a reasonable strategic reserve of staple grains.

This is of course a US centric comment.

Right now as scary as it may sound to the non farming public, our food reserves consist mostly of the grain stockpiles our farmers sell to the meat producers-the folks with the giant chicken concentration camps, the beef cattle feedlots, the industrial sized hog farms.

the concept of protecting the life of a cockroach

Oh, I'd protect the cockroach alright...just long enough to feed it to my chickens!

I use little live-trap mouse traps (tip traps) so the chickens can get a little meat. Kinda like gladiatorial games for chickens. We even do the "we who are about to die, salute you" speech; the kids love it. If the mice escape the chicken tractor alive, we let them go...seems only fair.

Kinda like gladiatorial games for chickens.

Yes indeed. Mice are goners, as well as grasshoppers, roaches, slugs, snakes and all other manner of small critters who meet my little flock of feathered-velociraptors. You can be shocked or appalled by their behavior, but it truly is the circle-of-life visible and ungarnished. Despite my thoughts of being more lofty and high-minded, I too find myself fascinated to watch them in action. It really is funny. Probably in the same way God is watching us fools and laughing as we start realizing the pickle we are in. ...bring on the gladiatorial games? or is that already happening?

I honestly thought TOD had picked up a joke news story from "The Onion", America's other finest news source.

Gee, it all seems to come down to squeamishness around death doesn't it? Mortality is natural. It's your friend, and it's unavoidable whether you're a parsnip, rooster, dog or human. Death isn't "bad". It's been part of the natural order ever since creation. Everyone needs to come to some kind of personal peace with it, avoiding it just makes it a much bigger boogy man. I just wish all the fantasies about preventing it, delaying it, or avoiding it would be replaced by conscious living NOW, and conscious choices about one's place in this "consume and be-consumed world". It's just part of life folks...

I find the idea of preventing people keeping backyard chickens objectionable, on all kinds of grounds.

I do agree that people ought to be educated on how to raise them properly, especially within urban boundaries, with respect to nutrition, diseases and neighborhood impact.

I agree with Mike, above, that it's too bad that the majority should suffer for the actions of the few.

I would certainly purchase chicks from a free-range breeder, if I were going to buy birds, rather than buying from a large hatchery. This is valuable knowledge to share with potential buyers. I would also consider adopting a younger bird, if such facilities were within reasonable distance of my home.

Certainly, the adoption process works well for dogs and cats. Even rabbits. Of course, we don't eat dogs and cats, for the most part. People raising chickens are likely to be doing it for the protein (eggs, and possibly the birds themselves), rather than just as pets.

If the mission of some of the prevention organizations is to encourage vegetarianism, and not kill birds at all, that's a whole different mission. But I'd far rather people were raising backyard birds, in healthy conditions, for food, than buying the packaged products of the large chicken producers, where birds are raised in spectacularly inhumane conditions.

Well said Spring_Tides! The groups that issued this public statement are doing good by rescuing abused animals. It is unfortunate however that they are making a statement that could damage the efforts of those working to get rules changed to allow urban chickens.

The same sort of people who support animal rescue groups usually also support urban agriculture and city chicken efforts. The rescue groups are sort of shooting themselves in the foot by coming out against urban hens...

I suppose that a lot of the issues comes from the sudden increase in urban chicken raising. We are still low on the learning curve. Hopefully time and customer pressure will work out these problems (like chick breeders adding a few bonus roosters as dunnage to a customers hen-only order...a bad idea that could be replaced by a better carton design)

I do agree that people ought to be educated on how to raise them properly, especially within urban boundaries, with respect to nutrition, diseases and neighborhood impact.

I agree wholeheartedly with this. I'm just a beginner, but I have sometimes been disturbed by some of what I read on various online forums that chicken keepers are doing. It is not intentional cruelty, but uniformed practices and sometimes misguided attempts to treat chickens as favored pets. But many people do the same with dogs, and I don't see anybody trying to get dog keeping banned.

This could be solved by education, if the true goal of this organization is to better conditions for chickens.


It also isn't hard to organize groups people can join e.g. Meetup.


btw there's one for bees too :-


PostScript: For those of us who keep dogs and cats, consider how to feed them a natural diet. Since they are carnivores, and cats are obligate carnivores, while you may get dogs to eat vegetables, there'll need to be some means to feed them meat too.

It seems like people who want to raise chickens (especially on small city lots) should visit some other homes in their area where this is being done, and see how this is working out. If they could help with "chores" for a while (perhaps partly while the owner is on vacation), this would give more of a feel for what is involved. This way, they would be better prepared for taking on a new responsibility.

I think the Meetup group idea is good.

A community garden non-profit in our area hosts an annual "Tour de Coops" as well as Urban Chicken Keeping 101 workshops. They have both increased dramatically in popularity over the past 3 years. It's a great way to learn the basics, meet local experts, and see good examples to follow. http://wasatchgardens.org/learn/urban-chicken-care

But many people do the same with dogs, and I don't see anybody trying to get dog keeping banned.

Sorry, lilith, but you need to wake up on this one. PETA and other animal rights organizations have been after dog people for years. PETA has removed the link, but this summer they issued a call for the complete banning of purebred dogs. Further, the statement, in well cloaked rhetoric, essentially called for the extinction of the domestic canine. They are fighting nationwide to get legislation passed that will severely restrict pet breeding of any kind, especially dogs.

As someone who knows (we raise and show champion Standard Poodles, AKC and UKC) and has been involved in pet rescue for years (I bathe and groom dogs for four animal shelters so that they will be more adoptable), I have been on the front lines, both against animal cruelty and against those that would infringe on my right to breed, raise, sell, and even eat domestic animals as my ancestors have for over 10,000 years. Below is an exerpt from the PETA home page:

•Animals Are Not Ours to Eat
•Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
•Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
•Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
•Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way

It's going to be interesting to see these bleeding heart a-holes have to make the choice between eating the animals they are so concerned about and starving.

I suppose that this may be a controversial topic to post a response to! I believe that all animals should be cared for humanely but they are not humans whom I hold in higher regard. A chick is only an egg that has been kept warm for 21 days and if killed quickly I can see no harm in that. Perhaps there should be a butchering facility set up for all these unwanted roosters that then could be used in soup kitchens. And mice! I am sorry- mice in an animal shelter defies reason! I am quite sure that hungry people in many parts of the world would find that this whole topic is utterly incomprehensible.

At one time in the past someone thought it would be neat to start keeping the odd pets. Mice, insects, birds, frogs, hamsters, tropical fish, rats, snakes, reptiles, turtles, etc. Now look at places all over the country where pets have been thrown out and roam free to breed and cause problems. Everytime a pet store sells a pet, they should have detail classes taught to those that want to buy them. And take back programs as well. But humans are stupid at times, and we have made most of these problems all by ourselves. Invasive species is a big issue in most places in our country, be it cane toads, or Pythons, or Kudzu, or Japanese Privet.

Mice in animal shelters is just the tip of the Iceburg showing.

More chickens for food banks, and soup kitchens is not a bad idea. Some time in the future maybe their won't be starving people anymore.


More chickens for food banks, and soup kitchens is not a bad idea.

I am involved in a project that is encouraging surplus backyard vegetables to got to a food bank program. It would not be difficult to extend this to eggs and chicken meat. Does anyone know the best age to slaughter a rooster if you are going to grow him for meat? Is there any point in doing this or is it better to just wring their necks early and compost them?

I also hear that pigeons are easy to keep and take much less room than chickens and are quite tasty if killed young enough.

Roosters make great soup at any age. They need a lot of slow cooking with liquid, because a cull rooster raised in the backyard is tough at any age. They are soup when they either make noise or stop gaining weight.

This is just me talking, but I hang them upside down by their feet, hold their heads and make one slice with a very sharp, large knife. Hanging them upside down sedates them and they are dead before they have a chance to suffer. The carcass will flap around, just nervous system response, so it's useful to either secure the wings beforehand or suck it up and hold the chicken while it bleeds out. Then hold the carcass by the feet, plunge it into very hot water just off the boil, and as soon as you can stand, rip off the wet feathers and put them in a bag. Then clean the insides out, being careful not to puncture the bile duct. The heart, liver and gizzard can be washed and saved, just like in chickens that come from the supermarket. Stubborn pinfeathers can be removed with pliers.

If the bird is starved the night before, cleaning them is not too obnoxious. A recently fed chicken has disgusting smelly guts.

I live in a city. The chickens live out at my friend's farm, where they have happy lives hanging out with the goats and chasing the farm cats. They are tougher and far better tasting than supermarket chickens. Since they are all cull roosters or retired layers, they are best cooked by traditional peasant recipes such as soup or coq au vin rouge.

Chickens, as pointed out in the earlier campfire article, recycle all sorts of garden waste and bugs in useable eggs, meat and fertilizer. The feathers make excellent fertilizer.

Me, personally, I like happy food. I would rather eat the occasional stewed local chicken than cheap, tasteless factory farmed Frankenfood.

While I agree with the concerns about hatcheries and mailing young chicks, remember that there are local hatcheries (I've found them in CA, OH and VT near where I've lived) and that for those that are choosing to raise chickens often would've consumed chickens/eggs anyway, meaning that those birds would've been hatched somewhere anyway.

It seems like the rest of their argument can be reduced to this: sexing is hard, therefore people will end up with roosters that need to be killed. Which doesn't seem to be a big problem, if the sanctuaries don't want to butcher them, I imagine they could find someone who would do it if they get to keep the birds. I've got 10 birds living in the backyard that we let out of the coop (15x8 with an enclosed nest box, all made from scavenged materials except the chicken wire) to forage whenever possible. My friend gave me a rooster he mistook for a hen (didn't see the spurs?) and there was never any question what I would do once he started making noise. I'm still incredulous of people who eat meat or animal products and can't fathom killing a real animal.

It was years ago, but we got chickens from Murray McMurray twice thru the mail. No problems. Everybody alive.
We got bees thru the mail, too.

I'm still incredulous of people who eat meat or animal products and can't fathom killing a real animal.

Wait a minute here...I eat small amounts of meat, primarily chicken and beef, though I would not choose to butcher and animal myself. I only purchase meat products that are raised humanely and organically at local farms. I see no inconsistency here. Do you have a problem with people who eat vegetables, but choose not to tend their own vegetable garden?

I should be more clear, I understand not wanting to kill your own meat (I certainly don't do it all the time or even most of the time), but what I don't understand is not making the connection between raising animals for their products and the need to kill them (either after their useful lives or for meat). So when it is clear that some roosters will arrive with the hens, I think one needs to be prepared to end their lives or find someone who will do it (if you're living in a city that is).

"I'm still incredulous of people who eat meat or animal products and can't fathom killing a real animal."

I grew up with parents who did kill the animals for food, but I've not killed but fish for food. I do know how to do it, but I have not been doing it as a general practice.

As the thread below says, training people to both keep the chickens and butcher them is needed. Most people living in cities have been away from the farm for so many generations you'll be surprised what they DON'T know about the food they eat, even the stuff that comes in boxes is a mystery to them, as well as fresh plant and animal products.

Re-education is much needed along these lines, teaching people not only butchering skills, but plant growing, and fish keeping skills. How many people do you think can even cut up a store bought chicken?

There is a whole mess of Life lessions schools should be teaching people, or the Crash program is going to catch them totally unprepared.


I really want to know how the Eastern Sanctuary "deprogram(s) fighting cocks so that they can live normal lives." I really want to know.

What is a normal life for a fighting cock?

Deep philosophical questions abound.

For starters, there's Cock-A-Doodle-Doo boot camp, where dozen of simulated sunrises in a 24-hr period put them through quite a workout. Sounds cruel, but it works.

I looked it up:

Here at Eastern Sanctuaries, we have proudly innovated the "Un-cocked and Loaded" program, a 12-step practice of Reparative Therapy for Fighting Cocks. A traumatized cock is first plied with "Monster Mash," an avian intoxicant formulated only from the finest non-GMO Indian corns. Then the cock is cooped up with a flock of youthful, organically-raised laying hens that gently croon "Give Peace a Chance" in his ear.

A picture of the treatment is given at source.

If you pick one up by his tail, he won't come at you for a few days maybe. But they're roosters, they can't help being roosters, and I like 'em feisty. We've got one called Obama, and he's a mean sucker, the other one was just useless the night the raccoons came around. He may be pretty but I've got his number: useless. Given my choice Obama would have a long term of office around here and Pretty Boy (he's un named) would become coq au vin and pretty jewelry and fishing lures.

Hey, Mike---

I hope you don't mind - I liked your little joke so much, I quoted it on my own blog in my response to this anti-backyard chicken advocacy.



I really want to know how the Eastern Sanctuary "deprogram(s) fighting cocks so that they can live normal lives." I really want to know.

Perhaps they lie on little rooster couches and discuss their dreams and bad chickhoods.

mikeB, They meet granny out in the back yard and her axe, Then find a home in a stew pot. The normal life of a rooster. My father tells me that's what happened to most of the roosters they had.

It kinda reminds me of years ago when you saw all those Bettas in Plant vases, where they told people you did not need to feed them. As a Betta Breeder we were running around trying to get a better life for the fish we cared about. Smirk. Just a little fish barely an ounce total weight, here is some big human trying to save them. My first wife's webpage is still up and running, not smoothly but still there. It was a fad those fish vases, it went away over time. But you couldn't eat bettas.


As the popularity of backyard chickens grows in cities and suburbs, someone could make a decent living doing the part of chicken raising no one wants to face--killing and plucking chickens. Heck, I'd probably pay someone to do it, at least the first couple times until I learned how. A chicken "expert" could also help folks set up coops, teach them chicken care, help deal with problems, etc. You country folks may think this sounds silly, but I predict this is a growth industry.

This is the thing that seems so incongruous to me. It sounds like people want a chicken so that they can get the eggs, but they draw the line at slaughtering a rooster, so they try and drop it off at an animal sanctuary instead. If people are really this squeamish, then they ought to become vegetarian. The modern supermarket has desensitized people to what needs to be done to bring meat to the table. I suppose in the same sense people are ignorant of the living conditions of factory chickens.

For what it is worth, I grew up on a farm, but we didn't have chickens. We did once get a live chicken from somewhere to cook and eat - and it was kind of a mess to get it cleaned up and ready to cook.

As the popularity of backyard chickens grows in cities and suburbs, someone could make a decent living doing the part of chicken raising no one wants to face--killing and plucking chickens. Heck, I'd probably pay someone to do it, at least the first couple times until I learned how. A chicken "expert" could also help folks set up coops, teach them chicken care, help deal with problems, etc. You country folks may think this sounds silly, but I predict this is a growth industry.

I agree. Mad City Chickens (Madison, WI) does offer a Chickens 101 intro which is helpful. I also attended a series for Master GArdeners on backyard food production which included a session on chickens which was very helpful. It's not hard to organize some education, and promote that, if the true goal of the organization wanting to ban urban chicken keeping was simply better treatment of the animals.


You country folks may think this sounds silly, but I predict this is a growth industry.

It's absolutely a growth industry. The only way these groups could consider saying that bylaws allowing chickens should be repealed is because they don't see the future that we see. The give-away is that they use the phrase "hobbyists."

I predict that as the economy continues its downward trajectory, the futility of attempting to stop chicken raising will become apparent to them and they will modify their message. I was just approached to provide our Chickens 101 course to a university class of 50 students by an educator who understands what's going on. And we do, by the way, discuss "the rooster problem.'

Although they raise some valid points the key here is education not banning. And, as you (taomom) points out, altering our communities so that there are chicken experts, butchers and pluckers. We will simply rediscover how we handled this issue before and how hundreds of millions of people are handling it now.

As an aside, groups like these will continue to disappear as our economies become poorer and the money dries up for this sort of advocacy, which is a shame because they sound like they are (mostly) doing good work.

Yes, I've known what to do with roosters for over 50 years, but as most people in this country have lost this sort of skill, these sorts of things will come up. I'd say these groups are inane, but they are a phase we will have to go through, until the superfarmfactories run their course.

Rooster shelters, while there there are moms who can't figure out how to feed their kids on $650 a month!!!!

I'm retired from a university library; I remember one of my international students (from Bulgaria) warning me that my country was in trouble: "Your American kids," she said, "don't have the opportunity to grow up. They need to see some fresh sheep guts." "What should we do?" "I would say, get them away from the televisions while there is still time ... but I think, you will find the damage is already done. Shall I shelve the periodicals next?"

... but in two or three generations perhaps we will see housewives standing by their washtub and clothesline in kerchief and long apron, twirling a spare rooster overhead, as both my grandmothers did.

In england we have a mobile butcher who will come and kill, and prepare your chickens for a price...

Its easy to do you dont need a demo.

Catch chicken, grab it by the neck with both hands and push both thumbs fowards quickly snaping its neck in the process. Its the easiest way.

Pluck it while its still warm because the feathers come out easily.

Cleaning it the first time was messy but once you know to free up all the membranes holding the organs in place it all just slips out. Make sure your knife is very sharp.

You can maybe find a demo for this on Utube. I saw a demo on there once for killing rabbits.

There is another way to get hens, although it's unsavoury and you have to dance with the devil..

Some of these commercial chicken horror farms will sell or even give away 'old' hens.

These poor, featherless, brain damaged, foot burned, bloody birds have given up or fallen behind. Even more horrific..if you take these home to a dark safe place with food and fresh air outside, in 2 months they will have feathers and eventually look normal. They are a bit subdued [no suprise] but will gratefully lay at a lower rate for maybe 1-2 years and then live a bit more at little cost if you have human food scraps and open land.

Sure you are paying the bad people, but every egg you produce is saving something else. Obviously if you have a good welfare producer nearby then that is preferable, but many people don't.

Euw. Aargh.
Are you seriously proposing that we eat the unfertilized offspring of chickens, descendants of dinosaurs?
How do you feel about eating your unfertilized eggs and surplus sperm?

It isn't hard to become icky about animal protein.

Truth is, humans crave a little meat, like we crave high-fructose syrup and trans-fats and salty fries. Some of us are better at digesting meats and fats, others are better at digesting sugars and alcohol. Depends on what your ancestors ate.

My ancestors raised poultry. The old ones became chicken soup.
It isn't very hard to do. You can love your hens, feed them and then eat them.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time on my neighbor's farm. They loved their animals, but they ate them too. One of their sons was learning to become a butcher, so he applied his learning to a nice fat pig they had grown. Both sons were quite nervous, they needed a couple of stumbles before managing to hit the hog on its head with a hammer, hard enough to make it lose consciousness, before stringing it up and cutting its throat.

It was a sordid episode, but nearly 40 years later, I know I have never tasted pork as good as what came off of that unfortunate hog I saw being slaughtered.

And still, I know that I am on the queasy end of the graph about blood and gore and violence.

I think the most respectful way to dispose of animals we raise and do not want is to eat them. At least, the resources put into their existence do not all get lost.

We probably used to be prey, we can know how it feels. It isn't hard to imagine sharp fangs closing on some meaty part of you.

Predation is an integral part of life. Neither good, nor bad. Necessary for the predator, unfortunate for the prey.

And my farmer neighbors respected the animals they used. A master-slave relationship, but the animals were named. Every one of them had a name. 50 cows, 30 pigs, lots of hens, a few goats. Except from their kitchen garden, they grew wheat, corn, sugar beet and hay - corn and hay for feed, wheat and beet for sale. And Milk. Glorious fresh from the cow milk. They made butter and butter milk and cheese. Fresh cheese with herbs and pepper on a home-baked loaf, and for dinner, bacon in lard with carrots and cole and potatoes and hot butter milk with apples and brown sugar for desert. Mmmmh.

Stop already, you are making me hungry and I just ate supper.

It's been a while since I have had farm fresh milk, but I can still taste it in memory.

Once things get really rough, most of these folks against eating animals will vanish from the system that is left.


"Every one of them had a name. 50 cows, 30 pigs, lots of hens, a few goats. Except from their kitchen garden, they grew wheat, corn, sugar beet and hay - corn and hay for feed, wheat and beet for sale."

What did you call the carrots?

My wife is a bird lover. Our neighbor to the north offered us two hens from his flock of red pullets. I asked my wife what we would do with the chickens after they quit laying. She said, "You will build them a rest home and if they needed a hip replacement, they will get it." I told our neighbor "No thanks" :-)

But seriously, two chickens is a PITA while 25 chickens is a small business. There are many sites about chickens so if you understand the reality of chickens, there should be no problem. BTW: We get pullet eggs (now) from our neighbor and trade zuchinni and other veggies for them ... win-win situation.

Way back a certain presidential candidate ran on a platform of "a chickens in every pot and a car in every garage". Of course that was before GD I when chickens were as much a luxury as cars. Interestingly, cheap chickens are just as dependent on cheap fossil fuels as cars since todays chicken eats concentrates (grains) once mainly reserved for people.

I think it's great there are people out there to rescue the Martha Stewart Wannabe's castoff lawn ornaments. The thing to keep in mind however is that just as the car in your garage more than likely will one day be a memory so will be the boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets in your freezer.

It makes me that McDonalds gets to decide the variety of potato grown by a majority of farmers worldwide and commercial breeders have "improved" modern breeds of poultry to the point they can not only not reproduce naturally but are mostly hybrids whose offspring wouldn't be worth squat anyway!

So while the chicken rescue people are out there providing a home for washed up fighting cocks they are preaching that we - the ignorant and uncaring, should stick to our knitting and let Tyson decide what's best for us.

I don't think so, I read farmers in Peru had 5,000 varieties of potato because each farmer saved seed from what grew best on his hillside (not because they made long fries) and that's probably why I don't remember reading about The Great Peruvian Potato Famine.

BTW, I raise a mixed flock of Speckled Sussex and Buff Orpingtons who are good for meat and eggs and would reproduce like humans if I let 'em.

I laughed at the potato joke. I have always preached growing more varities of plants instead of only ones that you find in the super market produce isle.

When at one time world wide humans ate over 10,000 species of plants, and now in stores you find less than 200. It kinda makes you think we are doing ourselves a vast disservice in letting factory farming and industry write our eating habits.


As someone who has adopted critters before, from one source or another, Usually some kid giving my then stepdaughter some furry or scaly creature. I know there are tons of things you need to know before taking on a pet, or new hobby creature. Don't they teach this at home anymore, pets take time and money and you are the one responsible for them? I learned lessions that I will not soon forget.

I do understand where the idea comes from, that people are so fickle as to get a pet, or little chicky for Molly, then when Molly has to spend time away from her Iphone, or PS3 she'll scream and make Mommy take care of said pet. Then Mommy gets tried of time away from Whatever, so she takes pet to the shelter. This is a problem for dogs and cats and has been for a while. Now adding chickens to the mix is getting to be a problem, except for one thing. We eat Chickens, and not usually dogs or cats.

You know it is getting bad when a site like TOD will get people screaming that we are leading folks in the wrong direction when we are talking Sustainable futures and people jump on us for trying to help. I am a Doomer, but I am also trying to make as soft a landing as possible for myself and others, even if it might not work out like that. If someone wants your daughter or your pig, are you going to give them your daughter because you can't be mean to the pig?

Every pet I have ever had is dead now. The longest to last were my dog and a Tetra (a fish) the Tetra was 8 yrs old, dog 15 yrs.

If I were to take up chicken keeping and had spare roosters, what would I do with them? Stews, soups, dog food, or given to someone that wants one, in whichever order that it works out to being.

In our thread of Thursday most people that said they kept chickens were not of the wishy washy hobby a minute crowd. I doubt that most people who read TOD are of that ilk. Please be nice and find a home for needy farm animals that kinda goes without saying. Just like you shoudn't buy from puppy mills, do get to know who you are buying your farm animals from.

All that being said, I just got off the phone with a friend, who several months ago was homeless, now she needs help getting food, help paying for her rent, and water bills. When are we going to think about the humans around us as much as we think about the lost lambs around us?

*rant off/

It seems like the chicken shelters could solve the extra chicken problem by converting most of them to meat for people. I am not quite sure what the point in keeping them in shelters is--unless there is a ready market for people wanting to take them in. And as someone remarked up above, keeping mice seems really strange.

People who are going to raise chickens clearly need education. And if they have small lawns, and are very close to neighbors, they need to think through all of the hurdles ahead of them.

It seems like a middle ground might be to have cities offer permits to raise chickens. To get a permit, a person might have to take a short educational course, and perhaps pass a test at the end. Permits of course would not be required out in the country, but education still should be readily available, perhaps where chicks and feed are sold.

What hasn't been learned is if these save the Chicken groups are related to PETA. That would be worth asking them. Knowing the agendas of those people Not wanting you to do something is important.

We don't want you to waste energy because we want to use it all for ourselves. Happily that is not what TOD means by Peak Oil, and saving energy.

We don't want you to have chickens in your backyard, because killing animals is a sin. Is this their issue, or is it something else?

More teaching is needed for sure. As a doomer, I've been trying to increase my knowledge base as much as possible.

By the way, Thanks Gail for all you do around here.


I went to most of the websites in Gail's post and found no links or mention of PETA. Many of the shelters shy away from any connections to PETA because PETA has become so extreme and activistic (as has HSUS). I support several animal shelters but detest PETA. One major grooming supplier I used to order from almost went out of business because they advertized that a portion of their profits was donated to PETA. They now support a local animal shelter instead. Their association with PETA was a big business mistake.


I seriously doubt that the chicken shelters who put out this press release will ever see any of these chickens. The local animal shelters will. So what you're talking about, in practical terms, is turning the local animal shelter into a slaughterhouse. Then we have to have inspections, regulations, etc., for the local slaughterhouse. Even large-scale commercial chicken operations are often a very marginal business. We are not talking about easy money here. Go to any city council member in Denver and put this proposition to them, and you will get a blank stare which, when translated into English, will say, "excuse me, which planet am I on?"

Requiring permits for chickens could be a reasonable middle ground. Someone is going to have to police this whole operation, and that costs money. Assuming the public would accept it (which is questionable), you'd make the permit fees high enough so that the whole operation will pay for the costs that the city incurs, and you'd need to factor in the problems of odors, attracting predators, policing disputes between neighbors, and so forth.

Just a few thoughts.


Why must every operation be policed? I think this is the crux of the problem with modern society -- everybody needs a gov't nanny for every thing they do.

While we're at it, let's have a training course, permit, and test before people can have kids, too.

Seems like recycling the animals for fertilizer or pet food would be simpler than having a people-quality slaughter operation.

I'm surprised these groups aren't lobbying to have neck-wringing classed as animal abuse. I saw an article somewhere that a guy was arrested for shooting his dog. Out in the sticks a single shot of an appropriate caliber was considered a "humane exit" for any animal.

Reminds me of a line in some movie (about soldiers, not animals, but same diff": "You promised they'd be decently treated."
"They were - they were decently fed, and then decently shot."

Unbeknownst to many well-meaning hobbyists, the massive hatcheries from which most chicks are purchased by individuals or feed stores are notorious for animal mistreatment. No laws regulate the housing of chickens at these facilities and minimal laws that go unenforced cover transportation of their offspring. Breeding hens and roosters may be confined in cramped cages or sheds with no access to the outdoors, and day-old chicks are shipped to buyers through the mail, deprived of food and water and exposed to extremes in temperature for up to 72 hours.

Most hatcheries are located in towns and do not raise chickens!
They contract with small local farmers to raise the chickens and supply the hatcheries with the eggs to hatch. (Most hatcheries supply 20-50 different pure breed chicken types)

Baby chickens do not need food or water for up to 3 days after hatching. That is what the egg yolk is for! Basic biology 101?

There are plenty of hungry people that would be happy to have some chicken soup at the local Feed the Hungry organizations.

Chickens and eggs were a major part of my grandfathers 160 acre Missouri farm. As a small child I was given the job of gathering eggs every morning. The laying hens were not pleased. The chickens and the one rooster had a nice hen house but often foraged freely. I also beheaded the Sunday dinner hen. Had to be careful not to behead my grandmother's favorite. Later got a biology lesson cleaning the chicken and seeing the long tube of developing eggs. More recently at a reunion while visiting a farm in Eastern Kansas I asked why they had no chickens. Was told that chickens were too messy and not worth the trouble.

humans have managed farmwork for millenias, including way bigger animals than chicken. and now suddenly it might be more than they can handle? what do you do if you have unwanted roosters in the flock? that's a stupid question, there are many things you can make, grilled chicken, chicken curry ... you name it. same solution when you want to end the whole project, doesn't take an expert to swing an axe and remove heads from the chickens


I'm opposed to animal cruelty; my wife does dog rescue and determines which ones are savable and which ones need euthanized. And we're fairly radical treehuggers.

So saying, most backyard chickens i've seen have it a lot better than commercially-raised ones. The "aesthetics" argument opposing chickens in a residential area reminds me of laws prohibiting line-drying of laundry.

Screaming roosters are quite annoying and should be dealt with, but it's not like it's difficult to kill and eat them. It's also not inhumane except for a bad minute or so, and most of us will have a lot more than one bad minute as we exit.

Some private no-kill shelters will curl your hair in terms of poor treatment of animals. Opposition to euthanasia can quickly become a counter-productive fetish.

I suppose rooster retirement homes are no sillier than anything else people may want to do as a hobby; it's probably less nuts than cat sanctuaries. What makes my eyes roll is that in a relatively well-off area, one can take in more donations at a home for old farm animals than are available to save entire species in the wild. A bird in the hand is worth a thousand in the bush when it comes to fundraising.

If I were to retire, I could probably do worse for income than acquire some one-legged owls and a mailing list, and create a sanctuary for hopping hooters. Heck, we could even dispose of roosters as a side business. Probably won't be all that viable after the crunch, but by then I may not be either.


"One can take in more donations at a home for old farm animals than are available to save an entire species in the wild."

I am again reminded of your recent remarks concerning well meaning allies preventing a job getting done.

The chicken savers are undoubtedly well intentioned folks who are most likely also in favor of banning whaling and overfishing and using insecticides....and on and on.

And all of these things are laudable goals, if pursued with good sense as well as passion.

The world is way too full of deluded well intentioned people with money and not much to do.When they find out that they can exercise a little power and get into the limelight , or at least the local paper, the self reinforcing positive ego feedbacks turn them into true believers-a sort of low grade fanatics.

The thing that really disturbs me the most is the fact that as you point out, these people will spend large amounts of time and money on a trivial problem while ignorig something of the same general nature that is infinitely worse.

I will repeat myself and say again that in my honest opinion this is far and away more about ego gratification that it is compassion or rational thinking.

The oil drum is populated with an extraordinarily rational goup of people -EXCEPT in ONE respect.
We seem as a group to keep tripping over the fact that the vast majority of people are not rational except in the superficial day to day bau sense of the word.

So I pose this question to the forum at large:

How can we steer events and the public dialogue so that a person who champions keeping chickens in the back yard get thier ego stroked ?

If we find a good answer, it will almost certainly be applicable to a lot of other issues related to sustainability and the environment.

I have never been much of an activist my self but I have sort of tagged along and learned a few things about activism.One is that a dozen people complaining get more attention from tptb in local govt than ten thousand who are satisfied but quiet.

Local govt seems to consist of a small number of ambitious people on thier way to bigger things with the remainder consisting of bueracrats mostly interested in things running quietly and smoothly so that thier routines are not disturbed.

A refuse disposal company once put on a big push to get a dump locared near some property that belongs to a friend of mine and it looked like a done deal-the local paper was full of letters about the revenue to be had and the state of the art design, etc.

One older lady who still lives close by the proposed site stopped the near "done deal" dead just by calling every body she knows ( and she knows a lot, being a life long resident church goer and business owner) and getting every body she could to call a couple of others and get them to phone thier county supervisors.

If the chicken issue is on the agenda in a small town, my guess is that if just two dozen chicken fans who are willing to spend an hour or two on the phone asking thier friends to spend two minutes on the phone will carry the day.

Quite a lot of folks here who can't stand conservatives can perhaps stand a gentle reminder that a great many conservatives hew to some principles held dear by most liberals-one of them being that the govt should butt out of the personal business of the citizens unless there is a compelling reason to butt in.

I still think of myself as a conservative for one very compelling reason-a very large share of our problems are the result of too much rather than too little govt.

If you publicize your cause correctly you can find unexpected allies chiming in on your side. For example,a large number of "gun nuts " are not at all nuts about guns.They are however gravely concerned with what they see as ever growing authority on the part of govt and ever shrinking autonomy on the part of the individual and see gun rights as a tactical battle in a larger strategic war between freedom and coercion.

If a letter to the editor in favor of backyard chickens is framed partly in terms of us- freedom loving individuals- as opposed to them-meddlesome busybodies intent on forcing every body into the same mold-it is likely to apt to elicit some support from people who could care less about chickens
per se.

The issue will be carried by those that first go proactive in most cases.Leaders are few .Sheep are many.

So how are sustainability issues best framed and pursued proactively and in a way that appeals to J6P?

"a great many conservatives hew to some principles held dear by most liberals"

My partner and I, while running an alternative newspaper in 1969, spoke at the home chapter of the ultraconservative John Birch Society in the city, Spokane Washington, on the subject of Freedom of Speech, and collected $200+ because, as people with weird opinions, they felt suppressed.

People are weird.

I've been taking in strays since I was 6 years old and found a bird with a broken wing, and nursed it in a shoebox. I've always adopted animals from a shelter, rather than buy them at a store.

Many No-kill shelters have a selection process whereby they only take in "adoptable" animals. The question then becomes, what do you do with an unadoptable animal ?

The rules at shelters, now, lean very heavily toward not letting the animals out of doors, especially cats, under the premise that outside they are more likely to get diseases, get run over, etc etc.

If you aren't letting the animal out of doors, then you have to make sure they don't overeat (kibbles especially) or they gain too much weight. So the recommendation is they don't eat kibbles, but eat wet, canned food.

Of course, wet, canned food rots their teeth, and then you have to take them for dentals every few months at $800 a pop.

While intentions may be good, there are many unintended consequences. For instance, it is frowned upon to feed the animal a raw diet, or use holistic treatments.

We're going to get into the same trouble with pet health care as we are with human health care, in that poor diet and lack of exercise causes all kinds of health consequences, thereby pushing up veterinary bills, resulting in more people being unable to afford their care, and more being dumped on the shelters.

Pets are experiencing a wave of "longevity" diseases, in the same way as people are, because modern methods treat them long past their natural lifespans. e.g. hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

To avoid misunderstanding here, I absolutely believe animals should be treated if they are hurt or ill - but keeping them alive long past their time with artificial treatments, where they no longer have good quality of life is, IMHO, as wrong for animals as it is for people.

Sustainability is going to take us collectively to some places that require a little intestinal fortitude.

Most of us have heard the expression about "stomping your own snakes" meaning taking care of your own tough unpleasant possibly dangerous jobs.

I think more of my old coonhound than most of the people I know casually.

When his time comes I could take him to the vet and pay a hundred bucks to have him injected or poisoned with tranquilizers but I won't-that hundred bucks is cop out money, and there are plenty of people around here who need it bad.The vet doesn't.

It's not that I'm too tight to spend the money on the dog-I paid over a thousand to have him treated for accidental poisoning and almost as much as the result of his getting hurt jumping out of the truck once-something that a country raised dog used to riding in trucks does about as often as a person would.

If he needs putting down, I'll either do it myself or get my brother to do it, depending on my own state of mind that day.Old Dan will never know what happened my way but when he realizes we are headed to the vet he knows something unpleasant is going to happen.

That hundred bucks will be spent on something important such as hiring somebody in real need of it for a day.

I stomp my own snakes.

A heck of a lot of people are going to have to learn how .

This is all so .... irrelevant.

We're in Collapse. People are gonna have chickens. The coyotes are going to feast well on all the abandoned and poorly guarded pets until it gets to the point of shooting the coyotes for their fur and because WE want to eat the pets. As we learn to live with animals more functionally, animal cruelty will go down. As I write, there's a dog-fighting operation not far away, a few no-kill shelter/horrorhouses in the area, and the usual number of animal hoarders and untold numbers of animals left home isolated all day, escaping and getting run over in the street, and all the usual.

The future I see, which does include pup-on-rice on the menu at times, isn't nearly so cruel.

Where I come from, you raise chickens for eggs, and you eat all of the roosters except one, to keep the chickens happy. Simple.

Oh, and chickens will entirely demolish any patch of ground you allow them to live on, so it is smart to organize your chicken run and your vegetable patch in rotation. You could have goats and chickens in a rotating patch of orchard, and grow shadow-loving legumes in the other part of the orchard.

The chickens will be happy if you let them dig their own dust nests, and you'll be happy sharing a nice coq-au-vin with your family.

Too much govt. regulation. I think they should allow gardens, chicken coops, goats, etc. The backyard egg producing cannot be as cruel as the huge barns full of hen cages. In the backyard the chickens got to scratch for some variety in their diet. These chickens were not pets, but a way to convert corn to animal protein.

They might have a better time trying to ban cats and dogs because the shelters are full of them and they cost the economy millions in pet food and carpet cleaning. Oops, I lost the pro-pet vote.

We are about to get chickens. We have a nice big run and the chickens can roam through the garden during the day. At night they will be shut in.

Males will grow to young adults and then be eaten (we will wring their necks - done it a few times, can't say I like it, but needs must).

Females will become curry or something similar once their laying days are over. They will also have their necks wrung when the time comes.

My biggest problem (here in Australia) is that their feed attracts rats and the rats attract snakes (red belly black - very poisonous). I have to say that I am not sure of the point of this article. Chicken shelters? Oh please!

We have a chicken shelter. We keep it in the kitchen. It gets pretty warm in there though, and the chickens seem to get a nice tan after being in there for a bit.

Our chicken shelter has a hot tub!

There is an easy and simple solution to chickens feed and rat problems.

Chicken feed should be made available in the amount that will be cleaned u by the chickens in an hour or so-this ensures that the boss birds get thier fill while leaving enough for the cinderallas to eat after the bullies have retired from the table-or else it needs to be scattered over a wide enough area that all the birds have equal access if space is not an issue.

But there should only be enough feed put out that it gets cleaned up every single day!

Store your feed in a large galvanized metal trash can with a tight fitted lid or other similarly rat proof container and rats will not be a problem unless they are ALREADY a problem.

The amount of manure produced by a half dozen chickens won't amount to much in terms of smell unless it falls on a floor or soil where it remains wet.

We have never resorted to such a measure, it not being important to us out in the country, but it would be easy to put a large shallow light wieght tray under the perches where chickens roost to catch the droppings and transfer them to a tight lidded can until needed in the garden.

Chicken manure , especially if fresh is a powerful fertilizer ,and newbies should be warned that it's effects are way out of proportion to what a gardener who has never used it would expect based on mulch or composted horse or cow manure .It's very easy to "burn "your veggies with an excessive application.

Yes, it is tragic that a few thousand chooks or roosters will be unwanted and badly cared for.

Much better to keep all the chooks in a large shed,

sort the males from the females

and throw the males in the dumpster.

Forget about backyard chooks. It's like worrying about boxing matches when your country is locked in civil war with ethnic cleansing. Deal with the industrial chicken farms, first.

The reason organisations are against backyard chickens is not concern for animal welfare, anymore than the recent US agriculture bill requiring documentation at every stage of production was for consumer health and safety.

It's because they don't want smallscale competition for industrialised agriculture.

Why do you say that they don't want small scale competition for industrialised agriculture? I don't see any evidence for this. These groups are deluded, perhaps, but that they are trying to preserve industrialized agriculture seems clearly false.

I say that because they're complaining about backyard chooks, but not about industrialised agriculture. Which is like worrying about the graze on your knee while you've got a bleed from an artery. Deal with the big problems first, worry about the small ones later.

Why would they not want to deal with the big problems? Wouldn't surprise me if some of them were front groups for Monsanto, much as many "environmental" groups are front groups for logging and mining companies.

Failing that, they're just stupid - because, as I said, the scale of the ethical problem in backyard livestock keeping is just minute compared to the scale of the ethical problem in industrialised agriculture.

Are you kidding? These are the biggest anti-factory-farming people on the planet.


More than once I have been asked to take in someone's rooster but promise not to kill it. Yeah right. I always say if you want me to take it I will kill it and eat it. Otherwise NO. We have to kill our excess roosters - sometimes ones that we really like. They should see what hens and roosters end up looking like if their are too many roosters in a flock. The hens have all their feathers torn off their backs and the roosters fight all the time. I would have to stop breeding chickens if I didn't kill excess roosters or subject our hens to cruelty. You can't tell a rooster to make love gently with a hen. We have even had hens die from a claw or a spur tearing open their back. We have some sentimentality however and have a hard time killing an old hen that has been a pet. Yet the roosters will even mount a hen who is dying and then we have to either pen her for her last days or take her out early. Can these folks come and educate our roosters on manners, kindness and the sanctity of life.

Actually I think what this is about is that it is another form of denial that we humans are animals. It is a way to try to set us up as being better than animals, a creature unique. Ernest Beck thinks that the denial of our animalism is a way to deny that we all die.

Every rooster, every hen, every cat and dog, every human is going to die. The only thing unique about us is that we know it and cannot bear the knowledge.....

"Every rooster, every hen, every cat and dog, every human is going to die. The only thing unique about us is that we know it and cannot bear the knowledge....."

Yes, totally agree. Why else would we deify doctors, and have this idea that, no matter what risky behaviour we have undertaken, e.g. reckless driving, or years of eating fast food, we can be saved/resuscitated in the ER, only to go back out there and do it again ?

Actually I think what this is about is that it is another form of denial that we humans are animals. It is a way to try to set us up as being better than animals, a creature unique. Ernest Beck thinks that the denial of our animalism is a way to deny that we all die.

This is a profound truth...

Here are my thoughts on this piece and the reaction:

1. As I read the press release, I see that most of the objections they are raising are "humane" objections, though they do refer to the problems municipalities are having as well. This is better brought out in their position statement, but it still needs work. I think they would have done better to emphasize the practical problems with allowing backyard chickens, though I think there are valid humane objections as well -- basically, that backyard chickens are becoming an extension of industrialized agriculture. It's "brutality lite."

2. There are actual practical objections to allowing backyard chickens in cities unrelated to the humane issues. Many posters seem to be unaware of these, or treat them as part of an insidious hidden agenda on the part of the animal rights groups, and I see a lot of ad hominem arguments. However these objections to backyard chickens might, just might, be valid even though coming from an animal rights group. It is the practical objections, not the humane objections, which are the main driver in the actual politics of backyard chickens. Just something to keep in mind.

3. The reason you are hearing this from animal rights groups rather than civic leaders is because civic leaders are reluctant to speak out against this; their natural inclination is to avoid making a large, organized minority of backyard chicken enthusiasts unhappy. This leaves the animal rights types carrying the ball, but the key objections are not humane ones.

4. There are a lot of posts in this thread which are inappropriate, which have a chilling effect on anyone wanting to actually, like, discuss the issues and express a different point of view. I don't know if this is a deliberate attempt to intimidate people with opposing views, and I'm sure that some of it is unintentional (I've said a few things I regret in my life), but a lot of it certainly looks like intimidation. I've flagged some of them, but if you really conscientiously went through and tried to eliminate them all, you'd delete a whole bunch of posts. I think it would be cool if, for example, we actually had, like, an intelligent discussion about these sorts of issues among people with dissenting views.

Best wishes for civility,


Two words: Rooster Stew

Sex linked birds are the result of a cross between different breeds or different colorations of a breed. I believe the most common to use are barred vs non-barred and silver vs. gold as these genes are carried on the sex chromosome. BTW the length of the sex chromosome is reversed from humans in chickens - hens have the short one. If you breed a black barred hen to a black non-barred rooster then all her sons will be barred and none of her daughters will be barred. Although the chicks don't show the barring at birth the barred ones will be black with a white head dot and the non-barred ones solid black. There are other sex linked crossings as well. If you buy female chicks from a sex-linked cross there should be almost no chance of getting an unwanted rooster for those who live in cities that don't allow roosters. More here http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=261208

Cities that have such restrictions and groups that don't want to take in roosters could make this info available to potential backyard chicken growers.

Everyone who takes on an animal should be ready to deal with it themselves if they can no longer take care of it. If it is a dog or a cat and they can't find a good home they should have a vet put it to sleep. If they take on chickens they should be ready to kill them if necessary. It is not kindness to pass your problem off on someone else. If you intend to breed your own chickens you MUST be willing to kill any extra roosters you cannot sell or give away. Keeping extra roosters is unkind to your hens. Do not go running to someone who raises chickens and ask them to take them for you. They have the same problem. In most places you can find some people from countries where they regularly slaughter chickens who will be glad to buy a home grown rooster for the pot.

Kudos to Gail for posting this article. I like to see the other side given equal room to voice their views - however dumb they may be.

Frankly, and I acknowledge that this is my opinion, there is far too much wacky animal rights mumbo-jumbo around at the moment. I love eating meat but don't touch the factory-farmed crap on most supermarket shelves. Most lard-assed waddling tubs who populate my local Tesco wouldn't know what a chicked looked like if it bit them on the nose. To them cheap is best and to hell with animal welfare. Anyone who was raised in the country and has an appreciation of farming and nature will be violently sick when confronted by modern factory farming. I was always taught to respect the animals, treat them well, slaughter them humanely, give thanks to God for the food on one's plate and then tuck in and enjoy.

It doesn't matter who you 'give thanks' to, but it is a shame that the practice has been lost. Now it is just wheel the cart down the aisle, load it with celophane-wrapped crap, chuck it in the microwave and eat it infront of some shabby TV show like the X-factor.