Archive for May 1st, 2012

Chicken Retirement

I got a call yesterday from a reporter who wanted my opinion on “chicken retirement” – sending older hens who’ve stopped being productive to a local farm. Apparently there are farms in Portland that take in aged birds, allowing owners to get new egg producers without killing the nonproductive ones. (See this blog post for a first-hand account.)

How sustainable is this model of “chicken rescue?” What are the costs to the farmer who puts time and resources in keeping a flock of nonproductive hens? Does the fertilizer gained offset the feed consumed and lack of eggs?

Before you get chickens, consider the lifespan of the bird (6-8 years). Then consider that the most productive years are the first 2-3 years of life. Are the birds pets? Are they stew birds?

We are promoting urban agricultural practices in keeping backyard birds, but are we sidestepping the reality that animals are domesticated and brought to live with humans because they are a food source? In short, are we exchanging one unsustainable practice (large-scale egg farming) for another (the potential of filling rural farms with former urban pets)?

Have comments? I’d love to hear them.