Abandoned Chickens

Abandoned Chickens

Abandoned chickens – are they a problem?

Jones Natural Chews is concerned with animals and their welfare, and especially with the animal-human bond. We donate monthly to non-profits which help humans and their pets, like PACT for Animals, as well as to fundraisers designed to aid dogs and pets in need. But do we help chickens? We certainly use chicken in our treats. And the last few years have seen a rise in abandoned chickens in the US.

Black sex link urban chicken
Boromir is a black sex link urban hen

I’m going to step out on a limb here and make a distinction between factory chickens, farm-raised chickens, and pet, or backyard, chickens. This will help us determine a couple of things – what is food and what is pet. Because, I believe, abandoned chickens really are becoming a problem in many cities.

Factory chickens

Factory chickens are those raised for food, either as meat, or as egg layers. There seem to be two distinctions in factory chickens – caged birds:

Caged hens, source, EarthSong
Image found here, at EarthSong Farm

and cage free:

Cage free chickens
Cage Free chickens, image from FlipFlop Ranch

Yeah. These birds are raised for food. They don’t have very long lives. They’re not being raised as pets at all. We eat them and their by-products, eggs. While I agree with many that things need to change in the way we house and raise these birds, until our appetites change, that’s not going to happen. Which is why I love –

Farm-raised, or true free-range, chickens

Farm-raised chickens are honest. They’re raised by a family or group as food or layers, and typically are butchered by that same family or group. Yes, they’re going to be food. But what more honest way to eat meat than to butcher it yourself? You’re likely to eat it less often, more sparingly on the plate, with more respect for its origins and well-being while alive. Farm raised chicken meat and eggs will cost more, but it will be worth every penny, knowing where it comes from and how it was raised.

Homesteading chickens and fowl
These farm raised, or free-range, chickens and other fowl have the range of the entire homestead farm.

Pet, or backyard, chickens

And here’s where the abandoned chickens come in. The backyard breeders and raisers. Not only do backyard chickens get abandoned, they’re turned in to shelters all over the country. I raise chickens. I never wanted chickens. It wasn’t originally my decision. I was totally against having hens for these reasons:

  • Chickens are dirty and stinky
  • Chickens attract rodents, which aggravates neighbors
  • Chickens are work, daily
  • Chickens can be expensive to keep in town
  • Chickens can be loud
  • Chickens attract predators
  • There aren’t many avian vets with chicken experience in the city
  • Cities don’t always look fondly on, or have friendly laws concerning chickens

In addition, chickens are cannibals. They LOVE Jones Natural Chews chicken taffy. Rotisseried chicken. KFC. True story. But chickens are livestock. People raise livestock as pets, yes, but this particular creature has become trendy in recent years, leading to abandoned chickens all over the country. Look, I’m not even saying that this is worse than the abandoned cats and dogs in shelters everywhere. But it’s different. Per my points above, chickens are more difficult to raise and care for, being livestock. Not necessarily high maintenance, but certainly not as easy to find help for once something goes wrong. And I’m thinking it’s not so easy to adopt out an abandoned chicken.

Black sex link is missing an eye - the hazards of raising chickens
My black sex link, minus one eye

I love my hens. LOVE my hens. But I went into chicken ownership with my eyes wide open, and I still wasn’t prepared for it. The heartbreak of a favorite hen being killed by a hawk or possum. The trauma of a hen pecking out the eye of another hen, like Legolas, above. A mouse infestation. The smell. Keeping them cool in summer and warm in winter. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I don’t recommend it to everyone who thinks they want it.

Do your homework

Bottom line? Do your homework. Talk to backyard chicken owners. Visit homes which keep chickens. Ask tons of questions. Ask about the worst parts of chicken ownership. Join urban farm and chicken groups on Facebook and online. Educate yourself. Then count the cost, not just in money, but as a neighbor, as a parent, as a dog mom or dad. Be honest about whether or not you want to take a vacation again in the next ten years, because chickens live about that long. And please, don’t abandon chickens. If you’re to that point, EMAIL ME. I’ll help in any way I can, whether it’s finding a group local to you which will rehome your hens, or whatever it takes. Seriously. flea at jonesnaturalchews dot com.


Now! Go enter Beef Saddle Knuckle giveaway! It’ll make your dog smile, just knowing you entered. Naturally.

Until I write again …


7 thoughts on “Abandoned Chickens

  1. Abandoned chickens. Who knew? We had chickens growing up and it was a never ending battle trying to protect them from preying skunks and raccoons. We didn’t eat them-we kept them for eggs. The rooster was mean though. After we lost most of the chickens to the wild animals we stopped getting chickens, although I would like to have chickens again someday for their eggs. Hope those abandoned chickens all get taken care of somehow!
    Tiffany’s Diamond Dogs recently posted..Kronos Goes to ClassMy Profile

    • Right? I’ve lost so many girls to hawks, possums and raccoons. If I didn’t still have one of my very first hens and my duck, I would have given up by now. Mary Ann and Jimmy keep me in the biz. That and the eggs. But it’s disheartening. And I really don’t think people have a clue when they get started.
      Flea recently posted..Abandoned ChickensMy Profile

  2. This is a great post! Having chickens for their eggs is very definitely a fad, and it’s not surprising when people realize all the work and stinkiness, some of those chickens get abandoned. I think some people do it with kindness in their hearts, trying to have cruelty-free eggs, but then it backfires when it turns out not to be so easy. For most of us, it’s really best just to buy the eggs from a farm market or other non-commercial source.

    My sister lives in semi-rural South Jersey and has chickens. One needed vet care due to a bite from some predator. It was her daughter’s pet, so she took it in for treatment. The vet just laughed, saying nobody treats chickens, they just eat them or let them die. Her bill was $110 so I can see why most chickens never see a vet……
    Taryn recently posted..Bored Boys! Bored Boys!My Profile

  3. Having chickens in cities and neighborhoods is a fad around here too. I think most people have good intentions and maybe want to raise and eat food that’s organic, but there’s a lot more to it than throwing out some feed and providing water. I do think a lot of them get abandoned too.
    Elaine recently posted..How to Teach Your Dog the Down CommandMy Profile

  4. We have an abandonment problem here, too. But typically, people abandon roosters. They get a shipment of what they think are hens, and there are a few little roosters in there, too. And the city won’t allow roosters, due to their noise. Every day, I see someone desperately trying to give away a rooster, and I hear stories of people just dumping these guys on back country roads. Sad, really.

  5. We have an abandonment problem here, too. But typically, people abandon roosters. They get a shipment of what they think are hens, and there are a few little roosters in there, too. And the city won’t allow roosters, due to their noise. Every day, I see someone desperately trying to give away a rooster, and I hear stories of people just dumping these guys on back country roads. Sad, really.

    Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

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