By Baxter Black, DVM
As America continues to become tangled in the web of domesticated animal welfare, we continue to exacerbate the inhumane results of our efforts. The closing of horse slaughter plants has backfired. Our emphasis on spay and neuter clinics has made just a small dent in the number of feral cats and dogs. Millions of canines and felines are euthanized each year. Feral hogs have become as welcome as coyotes, rats, prairie dogs, wolves and white tail deer in many states. The biggest factor in each case can be traced back to decisions made by people with big hearts and a limited knowledge of nature’s way.
The latest example of compassionate, naïve and innocent ignorance backfiring, is the unwanted backyard chicken movement. Urban folks, sincere and serious, want to know where their food comes from. In their mind they have the image of free-range hens laying eggs and pecking around with smiles on their beaks. Roosters welcoming the day, cute little chicks you can hold in your hand.
So far, so good. But as the effort to feed, contain, clean-up after, dust for lice and hose chicken poop off the porch, the swing set, the window sills…the new nervous poultrymen must face reality. They begin to see why farmers using modern practices that prevent disease, increase sanitation, improve their diet, and reduce the muck that goes with raising chickens is important. Reality is not the idyllic farmer-in-the-dell fairy tale they had imagined.
Then the hens quit laying. The neuvo-farmer can’t even think about slaughtering such a faithful hen. So, just like dumping unwanted horses, puppies and kittens, they turn their old hens loose…sort of a “Free Henny Penny!”
Is this a serious problem? In Minneapolis, a “Chicken rescue facility” report that they received calls to take 500 abandoned chickens. They are working with Animal Control to find homes to place the steady stream of unwanted chickens.
Those of us in rural America look on this problem dumbfounded. Nigerians in refuge camps, Filipino typhoon victims, North Korean mothers, Laotian immigrants plus 98% of the people on Earth who have some basic understanding of life’s cycle, are incredulous.
In megacities, we have isolated a significant percentage of our population from reality. They exist in a cocoon that is controlled by electronic robots that keep them and their children separated from dirt, weather, farming, mining timber, drilling and changing their own flat tires. They might as well be living in a space station on the moon.
We, whose job is to feed, house and comfort these space station citizens make an effort to inform them “Where their food, clothing and shelter comes from.” But most will never become truly knowledgeable enough in the subjects to make an educated decision. So, it will continue to be up to us, the producers, to make the right decisions, for the right reasons.
So with a tip of the hat to you urban chicken raisers, do your homework, be responsible and enjoy your eggs. And remember, that little chick will one day be at the Campbell’s soup stage of their life. Have a plan.