Here are some posts and articles from the past week or so. Enjoy!
A few posts about backyard chickens:
Local (and sort-of-local) news
Here are some posts and articles from the past week or so. Enjoy!
We already have issues with unwanted dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles, llamas, chinchillas, tropical birds, and the list just goes on and on. Introducing another kind of animal that will be part pet, part food source will likely mean bad things for the chickens themselves. Why, in this whole question of whether we should be allowed to keep backyard chickens, does no one consider the implications for the chickens?
Marji at Animal Place posted a blog today about this very issue. She writes:
Chickens are wonderful animals. They’re fascinating and engaging. They form bonds and friendships, have preferences and desires of their own. We believe they can become wonderful companions. We do not believe the backyard chicken phenomenon is turning out to be in the best interest of the birds or people. That is not to say we oppose the adoption of chickens, we whole-heartedly support anyone’s efforts at providing an appropriate and permanent home to abandoned birds.
In her post she quotes from an article by Kim Severson which appeared in yesterday’s New York Times, which looks at the problems with urban chickens in the Bay Area. Severson writes: “Unwanted urban chickens are showing up at local animal shelters. Even in the best of circumstances, chickens die at alarming rates.”
But with increased chicken popularity comes a downside: abandonment. In one week earlier this month, eight were available for adoption at the Oakland shelter and five were awaiting homes at the San Francisco shelter. In Berkeley, someone dropped four chickens in the animal control night box with a note from their apologetic owner, said Kate O’Connor, the manager.
I wonder if the Vancouver supporters have considered the negatives of backyard chickens. Is there any way to guarantee that chickens will be well-cared for and won’t be abandoned or simply slaughtered when they stop producing eggs? Will people understand that buying chickens from a breeder simply perpetuates a system that kills unwanted birds (especially roosters) and that is as cruel, if not worse, than the worst puppy mills?
When the city council voted to allow backyard hens in Vancouver many animal protection groups in Vancouver opposed the motion. Not a single animal protection group supported it. There may be a few people who do a wonderful job caring for their pet chickens, but many more chickens will suffer as a result, and a new cottage industry of breeding chickens for sale to urbanites will have been created.
It’s about time we started thinking past the latest fads of local food or sketchy ideas of “food security” and really begin to care for our fellow residents of this planet. It’s the only decent thing to do.
ps. I was looking at the nutritional content of an egg, and 1 cup of peas has more protein and more iron than 1 egg. Plus more other vitamins and a whole lot less cholesterol. It’s healthier for us and for the chickens to eat a plant-based diet.
The Vancouver city staff has released the draft recommendations for the keeping of backyard hens. The Vancouver Food Policy Council has been working with the staff (and appears to fully endorse the keeping of hens as a food source – but only for eggs). The draft guidelines do not allow for backyard slaughter.
I do not like the idea of allowing the keeping of backyard hens (even though I’ll probably end up with a rescued hen or 2 living in my backyard) because there are so many problems with abandoned and mistreated pets already. But, these guidelines are really quite good, for what they are. One of the highlights is that chicks under 4 months of age are not allowed.
Roosters will not be allowed due to potential noise issues, which of course means that for every hen purchased one rooster will be killed (50% of chicks are male, just like people). If you buy a hen, you’ve also sent her brother to be ground up or gassed. That’s an unavoidable fact. I asked Heather Havens (the backyard chicken expert) about that during one of her talks and she confirmed that there is no one who sells hens who does not kill the males who are born.
As a side note, the chickens that people eat are slaughtered at 6 weeks old. Still babies. Isn’t that awful?
Strangely, the only email listed for feedback on the city’s page about chickens is the email for the food policy council, but they are adamantly in favor of allowing backyard chickens. What will they do with emails expressing opposing views? Will they just disappear? Who is going to read them and pass them on to staff or council?
Since, like so many other areas of our city’s government, there is a real lack of transparency around decision-making, I’d also suggest sending your comments directly to the city council members. Their contact info can all be found on the city website. The deadline for comments is October 21st.
Even if you don’t have a comment about the draft guidelines, you could still let them know that chickens deserve better than to be treated as food sources. They are not disposable egg machines, and we do not better ourselves as a society by leaving decisions about care and treatment of animals to a “food policy council.”
Vancouver city council is considering allowing Vancouver residents to keep chickens. While I realize that some people will keep chickens and care for them properly, I fear that most will not.
Here are my reasons for opposing this motion:
There are already welfare concerns with the keeping of the animals who are currently allowed, such as dogs, cats, and rabbits. Keeping a chicken requires knowledge about poultry handling, which most residents do not have. There is too much risk that chickens will suffer more if the by-law is repealed than they do already.
Introducing chickens into Vancouver’s unique urban environment will draw predators into the city, putting the chickens at risk from coyotes and raccoons. There is already a delicate balance which will likely be thrown off – meaning that chicken-keeping residents will end up asking the city to “deal with” the predators, likely lethally.
I also fear that some people will likely be keeping chickens for meat and butchering in their backyards.
It is important to keep in mind that most people will not be keeping chickens as pets, but rather as a food source – and animals kept as food sources are very often ill-treated. Will they be covered by the same laws that cover dogs and cats and rabbits, or will they be exempt from many humane laws as farm animals are?
The local SPCA does not have the resources to police the keeping of chickens, and I doubt the city has money in the budget to deal with checking on chicken-keeping households to make sure that animal welfare laws are being followed.
All of this means that most chickens will be kept in terrible conditions, possibly caged, with inadequate shelter and care, at risk from predators that they have not evolved to deal with.