Backyard Chicken Farming Fails

Backyard chickens dumped at shelters when hipsters cant cope, critics say.

While this headline and the story that accompanies it may sound like an article out of the satirical newspaper “The Onion,” they are in fact from the NBC News site and writer JoNel Aleccia.

Aleccia writes:

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

The story goes on to cite a Humane Society spokesperson and a number of no-kill rescue facilities, which have seen a huge increase in abandoned backyard chickens over the last five years. The two no-kill rescue facilities quoted saw nearly 1000 chickens dropped on their doorsteps in 2012 alone!

Mary Britton Clouse (owner of Chicken Run Rescue) saw her rescues rise from 20 in 2001 to almost 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.

Its the stupid foodies, said Britton Clouse, 60, who admits she speaks frankly. Were just sick to death of it.

Naturally, to keep the piece balanced, Rob Ludlow, an author and backyard chicken enthusiast, is quoted in the middle of the piece about how wonderful it is to keep “pets that make you breakfast” and how abused and abandoned chickens are rare. He also says that many people love their chickens so much that instead of killing them after they stop laying, even though they had planned to, they end up keeping them as pets… Thankfully Aleccia doesn’t let the piece end there.


*Although Aleccia states that chickens only lay eggs for two years, there are differing opinions on this subject. Some chickens will continue to lay eggs until late in their lives, although the number of eggs can declines after their second molt.

She goes on to state that the majority of backyard farmers get their chicks from the same hatcheries that large factory farms do. These are the same hatcheries that involve large-scale layer operations, and suffocate or grind alive male chicks during the sexing process (not to mention de-beaking young chicks and other cruel and often deadly practices.)

This is a reminder that even for those select backyard chicken “farmers” who give adequate care to their hens (shelter, medical attention, appropriate feed, etc.) and plan to keep their chickens for the 12+ years or so that they will not be laying, there is a trail of tortured layer hens, and dead chicks in their wake…

JoNel Aleccia does a good job of beginning to open the dialogue about the reality of small scale animal operations and their ethical implications, but there is a whole lot more to the story:

What’s Wrong with Backyard Eggs?

What is an Egg to a Chicken?

Free Range: Not Free Enough

The reality is that raising “local” and “home-grown” animals will never be humane or ethical, nor is it possible to supply the demand for animal products and flesh in any manner. Small-scale “hipster” farmers are simply getting a taste of what it means to treat a living, breathing animal as a product, and it appears that many don’t have the stomach for it.

If you would like to have a chicken friend, dont buy or breed. Adopt and give sanctuary instead of slavery to one of the thousands of chickens in need of a home.

Related Posts:

The Missing Children you Wont See on Milk Cartons

Bruno: A New Perspective on Happy Cows

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Free-Range Turkeys


Geoff P.
Past Member 4 years ago

What's the point

Tara B.
Tara B4 years ago

Thank you for noting at the end of the article that chickens continue laying for more than two years. Most hens lay year-round (or nearly so) for the first few years, then the laying season gradually shortens as they age. We have had chickens in their mid teens that still lay eggs for a few weeks in the spring. Some people make the mistake of thinking their chickens will never lay again the first time the egg supply dries up during late fall/early winter when in fact if they would just wait a couple of months they would see prolific egg production again through the spring and summer months.

The standard practice of butchering laying hens at two years of age is not because they stop laying at that age, but because the meat is still reasonable tender. If you are raising chickens for both meat and eggs, letting them lay for two years before butchering them is considered an efficient compromise. Any longer and the meat would only be good for stew.

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H4 years ago

Bradley, what the #### has this spam got to do with keeping chickens?

I know if I had chickens I'd be keeping them for life, not just for eggs. In the UK, I believe the charity that rehomes hens actually has a waiting list of people wanting to adopt. Sounds hard to believe? I hope it's still true!

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne B4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson4 years ago

Urban farming is very in vogue right now.

Sarah Baker
Sarah Baker4 years ago

It's sad to know that a noble thought ends so horribly for these birds.

Marija Mohoric
Marija M4 years ago

Thank you.

Valerie A.
Valerie A4 years ago


Carole K.
Carole K4 years ago

Sent this article to my daughter who has a flock of backyard chickens via Facebook. Claire above has a realistic perspective of the situation, I think.

d b
wiz wi4 years ago