Current Weather
The Spy FM

Hipsters Off The Hook: The Truth Behind Abandoned Backyard Chickens

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
July 11, 2013

From the headlines this week, I almost expected to see a hen clucking outside NPR’s headquarters this morning.

“Chickens Flood Shelters As Backyard Farmers Call It Quits,” Time exclaimed. “Hipster farmers abandoning urban chickens because they’re too much work,” Canada’s National Post wrote. As the headlines would have it, hens are getting dumped once their egg-laying years are over. (Isn’t that always the way, ladies?)

But are hipsters really the fair-weather farmers they’re being portrayed as? Not necessarily.

A closer look at at the backyard farming industry reveals another underlying cause for the spike in unwanted chickens. And it’s not the hens that are the major problem but the roosters, says Susie Coston of Farm Sanctuary in New York.

Urban chicken farming has exploded in popularity over the past few years. (Who doesn’t want a pet that makes your breakfast?) In response, many cities have made it legal for residents to keep egg-laying hens, but they still prohibit roosters. The gentlemen are just too loud for urban living, Coston says.

Here’s where the problem begins. When urban farmers order hens online, as is popular, suppliers can’t tell 100 percent if they’re sending a lady or a gentleman.

And that means many city dwellers end up getting roosters, when they really wanted hens. Once the poor fellows start crowing, their fate is sealed: It’s either the frying pan or the local humane society.

“Roosters are being treated very differently from hens,” Coston says. “We probably get 400 or 500 roosters each year at just one of our sanctuaries.”

But for urban dwellers who want to raise backyard chickens, there’s a way around this mystery-chicken-sex problem: Adopt an adult chicken — or better yet, adopt a hen from a factory farm, says John Reese of the Marin Humane Society.

The animal adoption facility he runs in Novato, Calif., gets most of its chickens from factory farms. “They’re called spent hens,” he says. The little ladies still have some egg-laying left in them, but they’re just not as productive as younger birds.

“The factories slaughter most of them for food,” Reese says, “but we save some of them from the soup and [let them] enjoy the leisure life in Marin County.”

Reese also says he hasn’t seen an uptick in abandoned birds. “We literally have the extreme opposite situation here on the north side of San Francisco,” he tells The Salt. “Over the past few years, we’ve just had a steady rise in chicken adoptions.” [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

10AM to 12PM The Toaster Brunch

The Toaster Brunch

The Toaster Brunch is our Sunday morning Reggae show, hosted by E-Roy. The Toaster Brunch has an active following of scooter clubs and rastas from around the world. E-Roy is also a high school principal.

Listen Live Now!

12PM to 1PM This American Life

This American Life

Take in a slice of Americana with critically acclaimed host Ira Glass on "This American Life." Each week he picks a theme, then gives his writers and performers the freedom to weave real stories from real people around that theme in a manner they find most engaging.

View the program guide!

1PM to 2PM Seasonal Shows

Seasonal Shows

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center