Backyard chicken farming has grown in popularity in recent years, as more urban residents turn to gardening and farming. But along with a rise in rooftop chicken coops has come the problem of unwanted and abandoned birds.
Hundreds of chickens that outlive their egg-laying potential are being abandoned at shelters across the country, reports NBC News. “They’re dumped all the time," Farm Sanctuary's Susie Coston told the site.
Farm Sanctuary's three shelters currently take in at least 400 or 500 chickens annually, Coston estimated. According to NBC News, another shelter in Minnesota "has tracked a steady climb in surrendered birds from fewer than 50 in 2001 to nearly 500 in 2012."
Animal rescue organizations often can't handle the influx of unwanted chickens, leaving "municipal dog and cat shelters the task of taking in, housing, feeding, caring for, and inevitably killing healthy, adoptable chickens," according to a statement from Farm Sanctuary and five other organizations.
With the proper research and dedication, raising chickens can be a worthwhile alternative to purchasing eggs from factory farms, suggests the Humane Society of the United States. The organization recommends adopting adult chickens from shelters or retired hens from farms.
Along with the animals' welfare, municipal regulations and sanitation are important considerations when adopting. Experts have warned that backyard poultry could become disease vectors for avian flu if the disease evolves to infect humans.
The Centers for Disease Control notes it is common for chickens and other live poultry to carry salmonella. The CDC recommends washing your hands after coming into contact with chickens, and keeping them away from children, older adults or those with weakened immune systems.