Winter is often a northern gardener's dreaming-time month, with seed catalogs arriving in the mail to tempt. Each gardener is waiting for the warm months so they can grow luscious tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers. Some of those seeds will germinate, some won't. Some of the seedlings will be eaten by a caterpillar or a woodchuck. Others will thrive, it is the nature of plants.
Other folks are planning on getting chicks.
Many people who consume eggs perceive that eggs are too expensive, or hard to find, but there are monetary expenses and emotional costs to having any animal in your life, including a flock of hens. Besides, so many great ways to live completely without eggs!
Chicks are living beings that never get to know a family if born in a hatchery, and start to die there (most male "layer breed" chicks are un-sellable and predominantly destroyed if sexed). When shipped in the USPS mail in huge numbers, more die.
If you buy chicks - statistically you will get males about 10% of the time in sexed chicks. Roosters!
Does your town permit roosters?
Will your neighbors report you when they crow? (yep, they crow!)
If you have Red or Black Sexlink breeds: the males are actually a different color at hatching so that sexing is highly accurate (if you buy females in those breeds, the boys are still mostly destroyed at the hatchery). For an admittedly hard read on the topic, here is a link that discusses the 260 million male layer-chicks destroyed each year.
This article about overwhelmed hatcheries fills us with concern about surrenders to come.
My purpose to discuss this topic today though is this: Unity Farm Sanctuary has absolutely no more room for any roosters of any breed after the huge influx of roosters in the last two years post-pandemic. I must refuse to accept any rooster surrenders at this time due to resources and space. I have no other forever-home places to send roosters to either. The ARL Dedham and the MSPCA Nevins typically will accept roosters if you pay their euthanasia fee. You can try to post them on the Facebook group "Massachusetts Rooster Rehoming" (If you use Craigslist or similar, the roosters are eaten or sent to cockfighting more often than not). Please don't release domestic birds into the woods. I have had to help law enforcement agencies who find abandoned birds and sometimes we have to euthanize badly injured ones. Predators find domestic birds to be easy prey, road traffic is understandably deadly, and frostbite can kill.
In 2022, we had countless (no hyperbole) people surrender whole flocks (even chicks), but every week year-round we get rooster calls. In the summer and fall, every single day! And this week, in the depth of winter, two emails so far and one call.
So for all the people thinking of opening up their lives to backyard hens, please be aware of your town’s regulations, the cost of safe/predator proof housing, the cost of feed/bedding/medical care, your emotional investment, and of course, the cost of your time to care for and clean coops in all temperatures and weather. And are you ready to lose all your birds to the H5N1 Avian Influenza when it affects your area? We worry about that every single day at the Sanctuary. Maybe a vaccine will become available in time.
Just some things to ponder since a little knowledge is important. We encourage the adoption of older hens instead of chicks. Chickens are a marvelous species - folks who get to know our individual rescues here find them fascinating! Did you know they make many different vocalizations? Roosters are the extra showy birds, but sometimes a hen steps up in a rooster-less flock to be loud too! So much to learn about our feathered friends.