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Raising backyard chickens more popular since COVID-19

Backyard chicken raising is the latest in COVID-19 homesteading trends.
July 18, 2020 - 11:04 AM

B.C. is really going back to basics in the wake of COVID-19 and while the rise in baking, gardening and preserving is all good some activities are just a little bit extra.

The SPCA says that more people are expressing an interest in raising backyard chickens and it's something they should consider very carefully.

“It’s important for anyone interested in raising a backyard flock to thoroughly research what’s involved and to plan carefully before deciding if it is a good fit for them," Melissa Speirs, farm animal manager for the BC SPCA, said in a press release.

Some of the questions Spiers said need to be answered are: 

  • Are backyard chickens legal in my community?
  • Do I have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide adequate care for chickens?
  • Do I have access to suitable nutrition and veterinary care in my community?
  • What will I do if I have unwanted chickens/roosters?
  • What do I plan to do with my chickens once they stop laying eggs?
  • How will I protect my flock from predators and poor weather?
  • How will I dispose of chicken waste, feathers, and possible carcasses?
  • Am I aware of the human health risks associated with keeping chickens?
  • Do I know how to humanely catch and transport a chicken?

Am I able to provide an environment for the chickens that meet the requirements of the Canadian Code of Practice of egg-laying hens?

“This surge in backyard chickens being raised by unprepared guardians can have many negative animal welfare consequences,”  Speirs said.

“The BC SPCA is receiving more calls to rescue unwanted chickens, who have been abandoned to fend for themselves. They are vulnerable to predators, bad weather, and struggle to find food, potentially leading to starvation and death if not rescued.”

She noted, in the press release, that roosters are more at risk of being abandoned as they are less desirable to hobby farmers.

“When chicks are purchased, it is difficult to tell if they are male or female, so they are raised until they are a few months old and it is easier to tell them apart. Since male chickens don’t lay eggs, and can sometimes be aggressive with the hens or other roosters in the flock, people often get rid of them,” she said.

Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA, says the BC SPCA understands that there are situations where people can no longer care for their animals.

“We will always be here as a safety net to take in these animals when they are surrendered to us, but we also want to remind the public that not only is it cruel to abandon an animal, it is also illegal and punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” Moriarty said. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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