Raising backyard chickens has become a popular pastime in our community. It can be a great way to connect with animals and a step towards sustainable living. Of course, providing good husbandry and nutrition is vital, but if you are considering keeping chickens, we'd like you to also consider some of the humane issues involved.
Whether you view your chickens as pets, a protein source or somewhere in between, it is important to know some facts before starting out.
- Chickens have a natural lifespan of 5-10 years. (Some live into their teens.) Most hens lay eggs for 3-5 years.
- If you plan on dispatching your own birds, educate yourself about it before getting your birds. Consider whether it is something you really want to do and learn to do it humanely.
- Animal shelters are currently experiencing an upswing in the number of abandoned chickens. Remember that your responsibility doesn't end when your enthusiasm wanes.
- There are veterinarians in the Bay Area who specialize in birds. You may want to find one, before getting your birds, and ask any questions about common health problems, such as Marek's disease. A little preventive healthcare will save you money, prevent suffering, and ensure that the eggs you are getting are good food.
- Chickens are social, flocking birds. If you want to keep happy chickens, keep at least two. Most experts recommend even more.
Mail ordering chicks, while common, can be problematic. Chicks in the mail may encounter temperature extremes and life-threatening delays. Some local pet and feed stores sell chicks. If you choose this route, you may want to ask about their sources. Feed store chicks may come from the sort of large poultry operations that you are trying to avoid supporting by raising your own birds. That said, you might want to consider our favorite source: ADOPTING! While the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society does not offer chickens, many Bay Area shelters do:
- Berkeley Animal Care Services
- Oakland Animal Services
- San Francisco Animal Care & Control
- Marin Humane Society
- Farm Sanctuary
Be savvy about choosing the sex of your birds. Roosters can be aggressive and noisy. Because of this they often end up being unwanted, either by their owners or by the neighbors. They are illegal in some parts of the Bay Area. However, most sources for chicks will now offer a sex guarantee. Make sure that you are getting pullets, if you don't want a rooster.
Fun Chicken Facts
- Chickens are the closest living relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex.
- Chickens have 24 distinct vocalizations, including separate alarm sounds for different types of predators.
- Alektorophobia is the fear of chickens.
- As a rule of thumb, chicken breeds with white ears lay white eggs and chicken breeds with rust colored ears lay brown eggs. (Yes, chickens do have ears hidden under their feathers!)