Where do Urban Chickens Retire?

July 11th, 2013

Why did the chicken go to the animal shelter?

Because someone who bought it thought it would be cool to have her own fresh eggs, laid right in her very own backyard. That person didn’t consider what would become of the giving chickens once the giving stopped.

It’s a sad story: Many chickens are getting dumped at animal shelters. That’s animal shelters, full of dogs and cats that have no homes. Sure, some chickens end up at sanctuaries with strict adoption guidelines. No, you probably can’t adopt them to eat. Sorry.


Here are some things you don’t know about chickens from someone who lived around them from babyhood until late teens and even raised her very own 4-H chickens. And yeah, all of my grandparents had chickens too. I was surrounded by them!

Five Chicken “Facts” to Know:

  1. They are cute, funny and full of personality, even when all grown up.
  2. Chickens are adorable clucking about the yard, sticking their beaks in the grass.
  3. You probably won’t be able to bring yourself to kill them for the meat once they stop laying eggs.
  4. Chickens become your pets. Farmers may not mind killing them, but are you really a farmer?
  5. They look at you sideways in that funny way that they have and you’d give anything to know what’s in their brains.

It’s difficult to keep coyotes, foxes and other creatures from killing free-range chickens. They must roost in a secure location at night, but it’s always risky in the country. So, when I read this NBC article on the hundreds of chickens dumped at animal shelters by “hipster farmers” in fear of the chicks living 10 years after egg laying stops, I was surprised!

Honestly, chickens in rural areas just never live that long to begin with. When I was growing up, my family never killed any of our chickens for meat, but I can’t recall any 10-year-old chickens. (I must admit, we killed one rooster because it wouldn’t stop its reign of terror.) Maybe a few country chicks do die of old age, but a creature usually ends up eating them before that happens. It’s just the way it is (at least on old-school family farms).

No matter how hard you try to protect them with cages, fencing and henhouses, country chickens usually end up living about three or four years before a predator finally snatches them out of the henhouse in the middle of the night. Foxes dig and climb, you know….


I’m not trying to talk you out of experiencing the charm of having chickens, but just realize that if you put them in Fort Knox chicken prisons in an urban setting, they just may live to be 10 years old. Chickens belong on farms with space to roam, not in small cages in cities. And, certainly, not in animal shelters!

Do I miss having chickens? Well, in fact, I do miss them. A lot. But I regularly come to my senses about owning chickens in the city.

I could get away with caging up a few city hens, but it makes no sense to me. I can travel a few miles to my local farmer’s market and buy fresh eggs from a nearby heirloom farm. Isn’t that better, and cheaper too?


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