Animal shelters see increase in backyard chickens being turned over

Aurora Animal control concerned about space

AURORA, Colo. - Some Colorado animal shelters report seeing an increase in chickens being turned over as more cities approve backyard chicken ordinances.

At Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden, "Critter Corner" is housing a different kind of bird -- and not the parrots pictured on the door.

"Definitely, our shelter wasn't built for housing chickens," said Jennifer Strickland, a spokeswoman with the shelter. "So, sometimes we have to get creative."

The shelter has seen almost double the number of chickens turned over in the last two years, from 48 in 2012 to 85 in 2013.

"As laws may change in certain areas, we certainly see a reflection of the types of animals that walk in and out of our doors as well," said Strickland. "One common story that we hear is that people have gotten them as babies, as a chick, and didn't know that they weren't a hen and they grew up and they were a rooster."

Roosters are not allowed in several cities that allow backyard chickens, including Denver.

"The other reason too that we see is that maybe people haven't researched what all the different needs are for that particular animal," said Strickland.

Denkai Animal Sanctuary takes abandoned livestock from Denver, Larimer County and the Dumb Friends League, and the founder and president, Floss Blackburn, said they had to turn away 100 chickens last year for lack of space.

Aurora is the latest city considering an ordinance allowing backyard chickens, but the Animal Care division spokeswoman, Cheryl Conway, expressed concern about the potential burden on the animal shelter at a city council study session Monday.

Conway pointed out that chickens stop laying after about three years, but they can live up to ten, and you can't slaughter animals in city limits.

"The Humane Society of Boulder Valley notes, to them, hens are the new throwaway pet. They likened them to the pot bellied pig fad that was going on in the 1990s," said Conway.

However, the executive director of the Boulder Humane Society, Lisa Pederson, disagreed with that characterization.

"We have not seen a significant increase in chickens here," said Pederson. "But we did encourage Boulder to have a safety net in place for these animals, and we work with partners to make sure they are taken care of."

At Foothills Animal Shelter, there are no chickens because they have been able to adopt them, and it's the same story at Denkai Animal Sanctuary.
"It's the fear of the unknown," said Sally Mounier, an Aurora City Councilwoman who co-founded the pro-backyard chicken group Chicks in Aurora. "Jurisdictions that allow chickens report very minimal problems. If Denver can have them, Aurora can."
Mounier said people can take older birds to a local Urban Homestead organization that processes the birds, but she said if the concern is abandoned birds: "If we need to, our chicken people are going to go over with hammer and wood and nails and build them a shelter, if that's what they need."


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