Friday, December 11, 2009
Backyard Eggs Not All They're Cracked Up to Be?
If you walk around your neighborhood like I do, you my have noticed an odd noise coming from your neighbor's back yard. You stop and cock your head. Is that what you think it is?
In Portland, the answer is yes. That sound is indeed the clucking of chickens, and it's the city's latest obsession. Nearly everyone I know has or is considering having a flock of their own (including me) and design plans for coops are being traded (and debated) at dinner parties all over town.
But now a coalition of farm animal sanctuaries and avian experts are starting to raise red flags about keeping chickens in urban settings, warning would-be backyard poultry farmers that the fantasy of having that home-grown egg for breakfast may not be all it's cracked up to be. A recent press release from Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal rescue, education and advocacy group, states:
"Unbeknownst to many well-meaning hobbyists, the massive hatcheries from which most chicks are purchased by individuals or feed stores are notorious for animal mistreatment. No laws regulate the housing of chickens at these facilities and minimal laws that go unenforced cover transportation of their offspring. Breeding hens and roosters may be confined in cramped cages or sheds with no access to the outdoors, and day-old chicks are shipped to buyers through the mail, deprived of food and water and exposed to extremes in temperature for up to 72 hours. Hens are in much higher demand than roosters; therefore, most males chicks are killed onsite at these hatcheries as soon as they are sexed, adding up to millions of birds every year that are killed shortly after they hatch.
"The coalition is encouraging those considering backyard flocks to do their research on the legality of chicken flocks in their area and the housing, predator proofing, diet, and medical care necessary for the health and safety of their birds. Those acquiring chickens are asked to avoid supporting the cruel practices of hatcheries by adopting chickens from sanctuaries and shelters."
Plus the fact that their egg production decreases steadily after the first year of laying and, considering chickens can live for more than a dozen years, then what do you do with them?
So stop and think before you invest hundreds of dollars in coops and chickens and feed. After all, farmers' markets have eggs available year round. And how many dozens of eggs for $5 or $6 could you buy for that investment?
Another excellent reference is "Factors Affecting Egg Production in Backyard Chicken Flocks" from the University of Florida.
Posted by Kathleen Bauer at 9:57 AM