Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My mysteriously growing chicken flock

Urban chickens, hens kept to lay fresh eggs for city folks, are gaining in popularity around the country.  In Seattle, you're able to keep up to three hens per city lot and a lot of folks do.  People will buy three chicks and raise them, and unfortunately, get a surprise that they didn't plan on:  a Rooster. 

The Seattle Post Intelligencer ran a story about how city dwellers are having qualms about killing their city roosters, and how some of them are dumping the roosters in city parks, or at the zoo, or just out in the country.  Which is where I come in. 
Picture courtesy of the Seattle Post Intelligencer, whos story on this issue can be found here.
I've had my chicken flock grow by 12 roosters in the past two weeks.  Apparently city folks who have a rooster they want to get rid of think that it's a good idea to turn the bird loose near my farm, or toss it over the gate.   I'm a little mixed about this. 

From one perspective, having a fully grown rooster appear is nice; I can sell them, and I didn't have to feed them up to market weight.  But I don't know what it was fed, and I don't know if it has anything that might be contagious to my (closed) flock.  These folks aren't asking me, the birds just appear, and my farm is far enough from anything else that they have to be dropping them here on purpose. 

I've been considering making a chicken drop off point, so that the birds can be quarantined and kept out of the main flock, but wonder if that might be a little too direct for more folks.  The idealized vision is that their rooster will be the one that is the perfect example of the breed and will have a happy life with a whole flock of hens.  The truth is that the bird will probably be enchiladas in a day or two, or maybe mole' (yum!  mole!), or, if I don't notice it, and it doesn't integrate with the other chickens and roost in a safe spot, it becomes an attractant for coyotes. 

This dumping problem isn't limited to chickens; cats and dogs are also dumped, and also become coyote bait. 

So here's my advice to urban farmers:  If you keep animals, you have to embrace the whole thing - and that means, in this case, blood on your hands.  If you'd like to get closer to your food, go the whole distance.


damae said...

Or . . . just simply put an ad on Craigslist for free and don't ask about the roosters final destination. Sometimes they get lucky and get a harem, other times they end up becoming mole'. Better that than slowly dieing of malnutrition or disease. To me, it's a bit ridiculous for someone that does not want to take responsibility for the animal to dictate to the recipient that they must!!
Btw, I am happy to provide a home for any unwanted roosters.

Chad said...

Yep, I have several friends who have gotten into chickens and rabbits after seeing us do it. When I ask them "what will you do with any roosters", they say, "oh, we didn't get any roosters, the guy at the feedstore said they should all be hens". I just chuckle. Then a month or so later they call me back asking if I'd like a rooster or 2 (knowing that I'll be killing it to eat, but they don't have the guts to do it themselves).