New York Times - "When the Problems Come Home to Roost"

Discussion in 'Website Announcements, Feedback, Issues, & Guides' started by Farmer John, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. Farmer John

    Farmer John Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 1, 2007
    707 NoCal
    I can't find the thread on this if it already exists?
    THE Bay Area is unmatched in its embrace of the urban backyard chicken trend. But raising chickens, which promises delicious, untainted eggs and instant membership in the local food movement, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
    Chickens, it turns out, have issues.

    They get diseases with odd names, like pasty butt and the fowl plague. Rats and raccoons appear out of nowhere. Hens suddenly stop laying eggs or never produce them at all. Crowing roosters disturb neighbors.

    The problems get worse. Unwanted urban chickens are showing up at local animal shelters. Even in the best of circumstances, chickens die at alarming rates.

    “At first I named them but now I’ve stopped because it’s just too hard,” said Sharon Lane, who started with eight chickens in a coop fashioned from plywood and chicken wire in the front yard of her north Berkeley home. She’s down to three.

    Ms. Lane, who is close friends with the restaurateur Alice Waters, wanted exceptional eggs, plain and simple. But her little flock has been plagued with mysterious diseases.

    She has not taken them to the vet because of the high cost, but she goes to workshops and searches out cures on the Internet. She has even put garlic down their throats in hopes that the antibacterial qualities of the cloves might help.

    “I’m discouraged but I’m determined to figure this out,” Ms. Lane said. “I still get more than I give.”

    Most Bay Area communities allow at least a few hens, and sometimes even permit roosters. Some elementary schools and restaurants keep flocks. The Web site, which calls itself the largest community of chicken enthusiasts in the world, started here. Seminars on the proper and humane way to kill chickens are becoming popular.

    But with increased chicken popularity comes a downside: abandonment. In one week earlier this month, eight were available for adoption at the Oakland shelter and five were awaiting homes at the San Francisco shelter. In Berkeley, someone dropped four chickens in the animal control night box with a note from their apologetic owner, said Kate O’Connor, the manager.

    For some animal rights workers, the backyard chicken trend is as bad as the pot-bellied pig craze in the 1980s or puppy fever set off by the movie “101 Dalmatians.” In both cases, the pets proved more difficult to care for than many owners suspected.

    “It’s a fad,” said Susie Coston, national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, which rescues animals and sends them to live on farms in New York and California. “People are going to want it for a while and then not be so interested.”

    She said that farm animal rescue groups field about 150 calls a month for birds, most of them involving chickens — especially roosters.

    “We’re all inundated right now with roosters,” she said. “They dump them because they think they are getting hens and they’re not.”

    Some chicken owners buy from large hatcheries, which determine the sex of the birds and kill large numbers of baby roosters, because most people want laying hens. But sexing a chicken is an inexact science. Sometimes backyard farmers end up with a rooster, which are illegal in most cities.

    In Berkeley, which does allow roosters, Steve Frye is in the middle of a cockfight with Ace Dodsworth, who lives about four houses away and tends a flock of hens and roosters that his community household uses for eggs and meat.

    “I’m not an antichicken guy whatsoever,” Mr. Frye said. “It’s a noise issue.”

    During the worst of it, Mr. Frye said, the roosters woke him up 13 times in one month. He recently filed a complaint with the city.

    Mr. Dodsworth believes a crowing rooster is a happy rooster, but he says he does his best to keep his roosters cooped to minimize noise. He has offered Mr. Frye eggs and dinner and said other neighbors don’t seem to mind the chickens. Down the street at Kate Klaire’s house, there are no roosters. But the elementary school teacher has other problems. She has been through three different flocks in four years.

    She ticks through a list of all the ways her chickens have died. There was the breakout of Marek’s disease. Her dog got to one chicken before some rules of the roost were laid down. She suspects a fox or a coyote carried off several when she was away.

    More upsetting were the two she found with their necks broken.

    “I believe they were murdered,” she said, pointing to a chain link fence that appeared to have been bent by a human foot.

    Like many of her fellow Bay Area backyard chicken owners, Ms. Klaire remains determined. The eggs are local, the composting contributions to the garden are significant and the chickens themselves are fascinating.

    And for her, there has been one more benefit.

    “Having chickens is a really great way of dealing with loss and death,” she said.

    I can't wait to hear(or see) the comments on this! LOL​
  2. Amyable

    Amyable Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 16, 2008
    Greenleaf, WI
  3. Farmer John

    Farmer John Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 1, 2007
    707 NoCal
    Thanks, I was searching 'NEW YORK' and not 'NY' - duh.
    I thought it was interesting and pretty silly.
  4. Nifty-Chicken

    Nifty-Chicken Administrator Staff Member

    She interviewed me and we talked for about 20 minutes. I tried to resolve some of the concerns she mentioned, but I got the feeling that she already had her mind made up regarding the direction and tone of the article.

    I think I'd like to make a poll to find out what everyone here thinks about chicken health and maintainable relative to other pets and/or lifestock. NOTE: it will need to be an apples to apples comparison! IMHO it's not fair to compare owning one cat to 20 chickens... it should be 10 cats to 10 chickens or 5 dogs to 5 chickens, correct?
  5. tonini3059

    tonini3059 [IMG]emojione/assets/png/2665.png?v=2.2.7[/IMG]Luv

    Nov 6, 2008
    Southwestern PA
    It did not seem very balanced, so much for unbiased journalism. Granted any time there is an animal craze people will get that type of animal who shouldn't, be it cat, dog, pig, elephant, tiger etc. It turns out to not be there cup of tea and it gets discarded. There may be more chickens in shelters now than ever before, however how does that compare to the overall number of dogs and cats that are at shelters?
    As far as the disease issue goes I have limited experience with other farm animals, however what I have read is to start on chickens because they are relatively hardy and good for beginners. I have had some disease issues, and after learning what not to do, i.e. not quarantining and not adopting questionable birds, I have had few problems. Any problems that may pop up now I can easily treat on my own. That is with anything else, you make mistakes in the beginning and hopefully you learn from them. But some people do not get that. They buy chickens expecting to get free great eggs then some issue arises and it is too much work and the chickens get tossed aside. Nothing new, just a different animal.
  6. Amyable

    Amyable Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 16, 2008
    Greenleaf, WI
    Nifty, I would say that's the fairest way to do it. Poll time!

    IMO, researching a topic to support your preconcieved notion is not journalism, it's an Op Ed piece.
  7. Nifty-Chicken

    Nifty-Chicken Administrator Staff Member

    Quote:Will do! [​IMG]
  8. Princess Amri

    Princess Amri Is Mostly Harmless

    Jul 16, 2009
    best coast
    Quote:Right! Where's that poll?
  9. Quail_Antwerp

    Quail_Antwerp [IMG]emojione/assets/png/2665.png?v=2.2.7[/IMG]Mrs

    Aug 16, 2008
    Quote:How about this?

    I own five ferrets. My five ferrets eat me through 4 bags of kibbles a month at $10 a bag. That's not counting that I trim toenails weekly, their little bags of treats cost nearly $4 a bag (1 bag a month), I make a special soupie mix for them that runs me about $3, and 1 bottle of ferretone per month is $8.95. Plus, there is yearly shots, rabies and distemper. 1 ferret visit is $100, that's just the exam...times that by 5=$500 (I've never taken a chicken to the vet!) Shots are anywhere from $15-$25 each per ferret. The purchase of a ferret from the pet store is $140, compared to a $3 chick from the hatchery (and for $140 you could order a full 25-50 chicks depending on the breed). An adrenal ferret that needs surgery, you're looking at $600-$800 and hopefully the surgery is successful, if not, you're looking at melantonin implants every 3-4 months , and that's another $100 or so every 3 months. Then there is also insolinoma, which is a diabetes type illness ferrets can get. They could also suffer from IBD, which means a higher priced, usually grain free kibbles.

    That's not counting that you need a litter pan, litter, water bottle, food dish, bedding (ferrets like cloth bedding, not pine shavings which can cause respiratory problems), a large cage, not the size for a rabbit, and at least 3-4 hours out of cage play time a day.

    I think the simplest way to compare would be the basic start up needs.

    5 ferrets-start up cost (not counting cost of purchasing ferrets)
    Kibbles-1 bag kibbles, $10
    Cage-$50-$300 (depending on cage purchased)
    Litter box-$8
    Soupie-$3 (served once a week)
    2 water bottles- $9.95 each
    2 food dishes-$4 each
    2-3Hammocks-$15 each
    Nail trimmer-$3

    Total start up cost for five ferrets=$189.80 not counting buying the ferrets at $140 each = $700
    On going monthly cost (and this is just the basics)=$71.90 (assuming you buy all the consumables each month)
    Yearly costs including vet visists: approximately $1362.80 (and that's not counting an $600-$800 surgery or medications if you have a sick ferret or $10 for ADV testing per ferret!)

    Cost to Start with five chickens (assuming you buy already started pullets!)
    Started pullets range from $10-$20* each, depending on breed=$50 to $100 (we'll use $100)
    1 Gallon Waterer From TSC - $6.95
    7 pound feeder from TSC- $10.95
    Bag of Flockraiser 50#, $13
    Black Oil Sunflower Seeds 50#, $20
    Rolled Oats 50#, $20
    Oyster Shell 50#, $9 (local feedstore)
    Grit 50#, $6.95 (local feedstore)
    Cost of coop=Free, built completely from recycled materials.
    Straw for bedding in coop-$4

    Start up chicken cost for 5 started pullets? $190.85 and this includes the cost of purchasing the chickens

    On going monthly costs? $72.95 (assuming a person has to buy Flockraiser, BOSS, Oats, Grit, and oyster shell each month, but for just feeding 5 chickens, it's probably half this each month. I spend $100 a month on chicken feed to feed 60+ chickens.....)

    Yearly costs? $875.40

    With the chickens I can atleast sell the eggs and put the money from egg sales towards feed costs. Nothing that comes out a ferrets butt will earn me any money, unless on happens to poop gold......

    Anyway, is that what you have in mind, Nifty?
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  10. KDbeads

    KDbeads Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 20, 2009
    East Central VA
    That's a good comparison Quail_Antwerp, I'll have to figure my costs for my cats VS chickens and put it up here too. Cats are way more expensive by far.

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