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Rooster Rant

Suddenly, roosters are everywhere in the news, or so it seems. If you believe what you read, they are the biggest threat to peace and quiet since rocket grenades and jackhammers. Because of that, here at the sanctuary, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of folks wanting to get rid of their roosters.

Why? Well, put simply, sex and noise. That’s right. More on that in a moment; but how did we get to this place where suddenly there are even more roosters to be dumped than ever?

One big reason is that increasing numbers of people are eager to start “backyard bird” enterprises. They hear about folks like them on the news, city and village folk, having cute little flocks of hens who lay delicious eggs on a daily basis and figure they, too, can enjoy the same thing. So, they purchase chickens from mail-order catalogs, quite often without consulting their town’s zoning ordinances, and plop the chicks (the ones who arrive breathing, that is) into their backyards with a hut and some fencing.

While the catalogs all guarantee hens, the fact is that sexing chicks is all but impossible, so inevitably some portion of the chicks turn out to be roosters. And while neighbors might be inclined to look the other way in town-zoned areas if only hens are present (especially if they get some of the eggs), they aren’t so inclined when they have to hear roosters crowing. The bird “owners” themselves are also often upset by what happens when the birds get old enough to reproduce; the sight of birds having sex, and the loss of feathers that often occurs on the hens, is enough to make them want to get rid of the roosters also.

So, the roosters and hens do their thing and, again, much of the time either the backyard birders themselves are upset, or their neighbors are upset, or both — usually, their upset focuses upon the roosters. Many folks decide to give up and look for places who will either take in their birds or else kill them, thus relieving them of the responsibility to care for these living creatures whom they ordered through the mail. Others fight back in what are often quite-ugly battles fought by their neighbors, their city council members, and others.

A large-scale version of this common situation can be read here: “Vermont Town Gives Ax to Woman’s Chickens”

Here at the sanctuary, we get frequent calls from folks who want backyard birds but then change their minds, either on their own or else due to pressure from their neighbors. Most often they want to dump the roosters but keep the hens. Unfortunately, we are pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg given that the backyard bird phenomenon has just really gotten started.

The Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center unequivocally does not support the ordering and mailing of birds as if they were inanimate objects. We do not support the use and exploitation of birds for eggs (and flesh) as if they exist solely to feed our bellies. We do not find the arguments against rooster noise compelling, given that people in both city and country settings spew our own noise into the air on an almost constant basis, upsetting all of the creatures around us (including each other). And we are quite concerned that the dumping of roosters will get far worse before it gets better.

Please talk with any friends and neighbors who are considering their own flocks of backyard birds and remind them that chickens, like everyone else, are here to do their own thing, not ours. They were not made so that we could eat eggs and legs. And while backyard bird flocks are usually happier than factory farmed birds in terms of their living conditions, the fact remains that they are still being used without their consent for our own purposes; a practice which must end.

3 comments to Rooster Rant

  • This is a challenging issue for us. We believe chickens can make wonderful companions, though in no way do we believe a market should be made for them through hatcheries and the like (or any market, ultimately).

    We have done large rescues of hens from the egg-laying industry – in total, we’ve rescued around 3,000 over the years. There is no realistic way for us to house that many hens so we do do adoptions. And yes, some of those homes eat the eggs the chickens produce.

    So while we advocate a vegan diet, we do not require adopters to NOT eat the eggs of the hens they adopt. Our choices would be: not to do any rescues; adopt only into vegan homes; adopt into vegetarian homes. All have their pros and cons, of course (vegans are few and far between, tragically!) So we have chosen to adopt into vegetarian homes.

    I know I’m rambling so I’ll stop. :)

    (We get 2-5 rooster call/emails a day. It’s beyond frustrating.)

  • bravebird
    Marj,

    You’re not rambling at all! None of these issues are easy. And absolutely, if a hen has a choice between death and a decent home where someone else will eat her eggs, I can’t imagine her choosing death. Yes, absolutely, in the ideal world, no one will exploit or use anyone for anything ever, but we are still living in the far-less-than-ideal world where (for example) the compassionate care of dogs and cats means we take their sex lives away from them.

    Where this issue becomes black and white, I believe, is with the purposeful practice breeding chickens so that others can order them through the mail to set up flocks in an effort to eat eggs or flesh. No rescue involved; no compromise for the best life possible; just a cut and dried breed ’em, mail ’em, use ’em, and profit from ’em situation. That is a very different thing…..

    And of course, the roosters. Everyone who eats eggs, regardless of where they come from, is responsible for what happens to roosters. An analogy could be made with the one-child policy in China which of course led to the murder of who knows how many girl babies. In a roughly binary sex system (I say roughly because of course there are more than two sexes, but there are two primary sexes), if you pop out with a baby, you will have a 50/50 chance of getting either a female or a male, regardless of your species.

    In an industry that has interest ONLY in the females of the species (whether on the factory farm scale or the backyard bird scale), SOMETHING has to happen with the males. Usually they are murdered outright like so many human females have been murdered down the years. Sometimes they are rescued; sometimes (although rarely, for those breeds) they are used for meat. The list goes on.

    But the point is that they are unwanted by almost everyone, and yet they are bred in large numbers in a quest for more hens because there is no way to avoid breeding them.

    Now I am the one who is rambling, but it’s just such a sick system, and (on a more personal level) especially maddening to me when so-called “bird fanciers” who pride themselves on giving their birds a good life are almost always only talking about hens. What they do not, or WILL not, see, is that not only are their practices hurting hens (we all know what happens to them when they stop laying, but those same practices are, for the most part, doing nothing more than birthing and killing roosters. Literally.

  • bravebird
    I meant to write “Marji” — sorry I forgot the “i!”

    Miriam

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