Montreal animal shelter grappling with growing number of abandoned chickens
Cage-free chickens stand in a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm near Waukon, Iowa, on Oct. 21, 2015. (Charlie Neibergall / AP)
Animal welfare officials in Montreal have added chickens to the list of abandoned creatures landing at their doorstep.
While dogs, cats and rabbits are par for the course, it appears a recent uptick in towns and boroughs allowing urban farming has also led to an increase in the number of unwanted chickens.
A spokeswoman for the Montreal branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the city reported 20 abandoned chickens in 2016, and last year there were 38.
Part of the problem is that a lot of people don't know what they're getting into when they decide to begin backyard egg production, Anita Kapuscinska said.
"Many of them are being found or abandoned by people who simply do not know how to care for them," Kapuscinska said in an interview.
Kapuscinska says the SPCA does not encourage urban chicken farming, even though urban coops are partly driven by not wanting to encourage factory farms.
More and more Canadian cities have been permitting urban chicken farming, with several Canadian cities permitting the practice. People often like the idea of knowing where their eggs come from.
But in some cases, Kapuscinska said they fail to consider what they'll do once the chicken stops producing eggs, or if they end up with a rooster.
Chickens are dispatched to sanctuaries, not an easy task given the rising number of abandoned chickens, she said.
Roosters present a specific problem -- placing them in a refuge is problematic as most shelters only take one. It's difficult to sex chicks at an early age and roosters tend to grow up to be quite aggressive and very loud -- particularly in an urban environment -- in addition to not laying eggs, she said.
Just last week, a stray chicken was picked up by the SPCA in a park and had to be treated for a foot injury.
Kapuscinska said people don't consider that chickens often require specialized vet care not available in the city.
"There are already so many pets being abandoned on a regular basis and now that we've added chickens to that mix, it doesn't help at all," Kapuscinska said.