Well, it looks like the bloom is off the stanking urban yard-chickens! Animal shelters across the country are reportedly receiving hundreds of abandoned chickens from disillusioned amateur farmers who've recently realized that "hens lay eggs for two years, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive." Um, yep.
I mean, I totally (kind of) get the appeal of raising one's own chickens—the bright yolks, the bucolic idealism—but they're literally poop factories that occasionally crap out breakfast. Also, they're alive—you can't just throw them away because you got bored with your starry-eyed U.S. Acres experiment. Chickens aren't a hobby so much as a lifestyle choice.
Taking cues from industrial egg producers, backyard chicken hobbyists often artificially prompt their hens to lay eggs constantly, which can cause fatal reproductive issues. If the hens don't die of having fucked-up ovaries, they just keep living. For hella long. And do you know what you get when you remove the "occasional-delicious-breakfast-crapping" aspect from your poop factory that occasionally craps out delicious breakfast? It's JUST A POOP FACTORY. (Fun fact: It is also made of meat—or is artisanal head-chopping too real?)
“They’re put on Craigslist all the time when they don’t lay any more,” said Coston, 48. “They’re dumped all the time.”
It’s the same scenario at the Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, Minn., where owner Mary Britton Clouse has tracked a steady climb in surrendered birds from fewer than 50 in 2001 to nearly 500 in 2012.
She traces that rise to the so-called “locavore” movement, which spiked in popularity in 2008 as advocates urged people to eat more food grown and processed close to home.
“It’s the stupid foodies,” said Britton Clouse, 60, who admits she speaks frankly. “We’re just sick to death of it.”
People entranced by a “misplaced rural nostalgia” are buying chickens from the same hatcheries that supply the nation's largest poultry producers and rearing them without proper space, food or veterinary care, she said.
Uuuuuuuurrrrrghghghskdlfskjfwekjrnlsdfjdssldjf. Personally, I know a handful of people who keep urban chickens and find it rewarding and fun and messy and challenging-in-a-good-way. Like a pet. A high-investment pet with extremely low snuggle-returns. And I'm interested in the intersection of density and self-sufficiency. But it doesn't surprise me that lots and lots of people are giving up on their urban chicken adventures, no matter how sure they were, in the beginning, that this was going to be their new thing. Like in 7th grade when I was totally convinced that I needed that "beading loom" out of the Signals catalog (REMEMBER THE SIGNALS CATALOG?) because I was definitely going to use it to craft many, many small rectangular mats of seed-beads—not wide enough to be coasters, not long enough to be bracelets. I NEEDED IT! I made half of one thingy before the weft became irretrievably tangled and the beading loom's new job became "box filler."
The difference between the beading loom example and the chicken example is that my beading loom didn't have a TINY BEATING HEART.
Anyway, I'm not saying that chicken-abandoners are bad people; we're all allowed to change our minds once in a while. (Also I am fundamentally against kneejerk anti-"hipster" derision because, as I've said many times, the term "hipster" is vague to the point of meaninglessness). I'm just saying that this is a goddamn mess.
Imagine what's going to happen when the urban beekeepers start getting bored and we have to find a foster home for every single bee.
Images via Getty.