Recently, people in the suburbs and cities have turned to the practice of raising poultry in their yards, mainly for food: eggs, and meat. While this is generally viewed by many as something positive for the chickens involved, and part of The Green movement, there are many serious negatives for the birds involved. The statement below was crafted by farm sanctuaries and organizations actively involved in offering sanctuary to rescued farm animals, and involved, also, in standing up for respecting the lives of animals so often viewed only as a food source. Despite their individuality, their unique personalities, their sensitivity to pain, suffering, despair, a dirty environment, a lack of good and respectful care, these animals are often treated poorly in backyard settings. Worse, the majority of backyard farmers stock their coops with chicks ordered from huge supply facilities, thereby unwittingly supporting one of the cruelest of all factory farm industries: the hatcheries.
Please read the statement below, and please support our efforts to stop cruelty to chickens in your town, in your city, in your State, by voting No to backyard farming in your urban or suburban community.
Thank you for caring!
Linda & Bill
Collective Position Statement on Backyard Poultry
As a coalition of animal sanctuaries interested in the welfare of hens and roosters, we have created this position statement on the keeping and raising of chickens. All of us have been inundated with calls to take in hens and roosters who are a) no longer wanted; b) not the correct sex; c) not legally permissible. As organizations with limited resources and space, it is no longer feasible to take in even a small percentage of these unwanted animals. Even with placement assistance, most of these chickens, particularly roosters, do not find permanent placement. This leaves municipal dog and cat shelters the task of taking in, housing, feeding, caring for, and inevitably killing healthy, adoptable chickens.
Shipping day-old chicks is cruel: Most chickens purchased are bought from hatcheries or feed stores (these chicks originate from hatcheries). Hatcheries ship day-old birds through the postal service without any legal oversight. Young chickens are deprived of food and water for up to 72 hours and exposed to extremes in temperature. As Dr. Jean Cypher, a veterinarian specializing in avian medicine states, “A day-old chick can no more withstand three days in a dark crowded box than can any other newborn.” Other experts in avian medicine and behavior agree that transporting day-old chicks in boxes for the first 24-72 hours of life is cruel and medically detrimental to the birds.
Chicken sexing is more art than science: Using data collected from sanctuaries and rescues that field calls daily about unwanted chickens, we estimate between 20-50% of purchased “hens” are actually roosters. Depending on breed, visually identifying a rooster can take weeks to months.
Roosters may be unwanted and are often illegal: Male chickens are generally unwanted for two reasons: They don’t produce eggs and they are rarely legal in urban or suburban settings. Hatcheries may use rooster chicks as packing material, regardless of whether they were ordered. Most incorporated or urban regions that do permit chickens only allow hens, not roosters. Unwanted roosters may be abandoned to the streets, slaughtered, or end up in a municipal shelter to be killed. Very few find their way into a permanent home or sanctuary.
Chickens attract rodents: Even the cleanest coop is attractive to rats and mice who enjoy the free bedding (straw and shavings) and food. Rodents are generally viewed as pests and their presence is unwanted by chicken owners and neighbors.
Lack of professional medical care: Avian medicine has made progress but there are few vets specialized in the treatment and care of birds. Veterinarians who do treat poultry are often expensive, with the average vet visit starting at a minimum of $100.
Concerns with new ordinances allowing backyard poultry
Slaughter: The average chicken guardian is ill-equipped to “properly” stun and kill a chicken. Further, slaughtering can be traumatic for neighbors, including impressionable children. If chickens are to be permitted in urban areas, they must be protected from cruel mistreatment as much as “traditional” companion animals like dogs or cats, including a ban on slaughtering them for consumption.
Roosters will be killed: Creating new ordinances permitting chickens creates a market for killing 50% of all chicks born in hatcheries. Urban and suburban areas considering chickens generally ban roosters, yet male chickens comprise half of all chicks born. Hatcheries mail roosters as packing material, and sexing of chickens is more art than science (see above). When residents purchase chicks from hatcheries or feedstores and end up with roosters, they will be put in the position of having to rehome the bird(s). Most roosters are not rehomed and end up abandoned or dumped at shelters, where they are invariably killed.
Suggestions if you are considering a backyard flock
Do your research: Chickens can be wonderful companions. While they are relatively easy to maintain, they do have special needs. Be sure to research housing, predator proofing, diet, and medical needs. Some things to be aware of: