Friday, April 2, 2010

Perils of Urban Chickens

An amusing proposal from Vancouver BC, which recently allowed urban chickens for single- and multi-family owners after a long-standing ban. Via the Vancouver Sun: "Anticipating a wave of buyers’ remorse, city staff are recommending the city build a special shelter for hens they expect will be abandoned by owners having second thoughts." I assume this is a Aprils Fools joke, but comes with such a grain of truth that it made me laugh somewhat uncomfortably...


:: image via Cinema Kingston

Not to make light of what I'm sure will be a rash of feral chickens running amok in neighborhoods, the idea of spending money on a shelter for chickens is pretty silly. Versus dogs, cats, and other domestic animals, chickens are owned and bred for consumption (of eggs and meat) not as pets. While I do adore our chickens and their unique personalities (as much as our other animals), they quickly moved from fluffy adorable pets as chicks to full-fledged egg-producing inhabitants of our back yard farm.


:: image via PSFK

The farmer's distance from pet to plate was short walk in this case. Should there be an ethical dilemma in killing surplus chickens if they cannot be 'adopted' by other willing owners? The meat can be consumed, and in lieu of that, there's also the option of shipping these unwanted feathery friends to actual farms in the peri-urban areas, where th
ey can become productive orphaned members of society, or take turns rotating between urban farms for weeding and invasive species removal.


:: image via Greenline

People unwilling to kill (or have killed) their chickens after they have outlived their egg-laying years are missing the point of chicken ownership - that we must acknowledge and accept life and death as a part of urban farming, just like it has been with food production and consumption for centuries. Not to say I won't cringe when the time comes for the killing cone, but it's necessary, and an obligation that was tacitly accepted through ownership. Seems more humane than the lockup.


:: image via Wikipedia

If owners don't want them, there should obviously be a mechanism for transfer of ownership to avoid any issues (paid for by said owners) - but considering the rarity of this, it's a bit of hollow clucking to assume it's worth real shelter space. Given the eventual uses and options for chickens versus domesticated animals - the proposal for a formalized shelter is ridiculously amusing in April-fools like silliness. That said, it's in our interest to ensure these innocent creatures are kept off the streets, save they fall prey to the perils of the streets that rural transplants are ill-equipped to defend against.


:: image via Flickr - Mark Klotz

But alas, most loose birds will most likely fall to predation (which is pretty common even for those with a home), or get snapped up by someone in the neighborhood in an act of community - much like many a stray cat. It's also unlikely that few to any of these birds will be able to procreate (as is the issue with feral domesticated species) and with said predation, the disproportionately female-centric hen community and lack of opportunistic males to do the deed will render this problem quickly solved. Unless, that is, they assimilate...


:: image via Polish Hill Blogski

Plus, in the spirit of the season, roves of chickens running around town would make for one hell of a fun Easter Egg hunt.

7 comments:

  1. Have you ever been to Key West? Roosters running amuck.

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  2. Hey Adam. I hadn't seen that... but sounds interesting... sort of like the feral parrots of SF, and the peacocks roaming the streets of Palos Verdes (et. al.) - although I guess neither of them are former livestock... but domesticated animals of a sort. It'd be interesting to see where else this has happened.

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  3. Nice points in this post!

    There are wild parrots that escaped from JFK living in Greenwood Cemetery here in Brooklyn, and there is the urban legend of alligators in the sewers (which blends a fear of the wild with a preference for keeping dirty infrastructure out of sight in a very modern way).

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  4. Nice points in this post!

    There are wild parrots that escaped from JFK living in Greenwood Cemetery here in Brooklyn, and there is the urban legend of alligators in the sewers (which blends a fear of the wild with a preference for keeping dirty infrastructure out of sight in a very modern way).

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  5. Last year I saw a pair of escaped chickens having a great time running amok in the front yards of my neighborhood (Richmond, CA), a couple blocks from the main drag/Trader Joe's/auto dealerships. A funny thing to see in the neighborhood, a chicken actually crossing the road and so forth (in this case to go scratch in the day lilies and juniper).

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  6. The last one is so cool. The second pic is so sweet. Btw nice point!! Though when I was young I did have a chicken as pet.

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  7. A funny thing to see in the neighborhood, a chicken actually crossing the road and so forth

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