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Below is a statement put forth by the Eastern Shore Sanctuary in conjunction with Animal Place, Chicken Run Rescue, Farm Sanctuary, Sunny Skies Bird and Animal Sanctuary, and United Poultry Concerns. In it we list the reasons why people should fight this growing trend of ordering and keeping backyard flocks of chickens, and what can be done should folks feel insistent upon doing so.

For the animals,

Miriam, Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center

Collective Position Statement on Backyard Poultry

In the past couple of years, the practice of keeping chickens in urban and semi-rural backyards has increased.

People keep chickens for a variety of reasons: opposition to factory farming; a desire to eat fresh eggs; a genuine love for chickens as companion animals. Like other fads, this one has drawbacks which hatcheries and chicken breeders don’t want you to know about.

If you truly enjoy the company of chickens and believe that all animals should be treated with kindness and justice, please consider these facts before organizing your own backyard flock:

¨Chicken feed and excrement attract rodents to your house.

Some of the Dangers of Living Near Rats

Hatcheries, like McMurray Hatchery, treat chickens no better than factory farms do. In fact, they ARE factory farms. Their treatment of chicks is abominable and comparable to the mistreatment of dogs in puppy mills.

Video of Hatchery Practices
Video of Turkey Hatchery with Similar Practices
Facts about Hatcheries

Sending chicks through the mail is abusive. Temperature-sensitive chicks should not be boxed up without food or water for up to 72 hours and transported through the postal service. Please note: Purchasing chicks at feed stores is the same as ordering them through the mail. Contrary to appearances, those chicks do not come from local farms, but from mega-hatcheries.

Dangers of Shipping Chicks by Mail
Dangers of Shipping Chicks by Mail, Part Two

¨ Hatcheries will send you roosters even if you ask them not to. They use roosters as packing material and chicken sexing is more art than science. While cities may be zoned for hens, most prohibit roosters, leaving them to be abandoned or killed at shelters.

Roosters as Packing Material

¨Chickens need proper housing and fenced-in yards to survive inclement weather and predators. They also need easy access to fresh food and clean water at all times, a clean yard and sleeping space and good veterinary care.

Providing a Good Home to Chickens
Providing a Good Home to Chickens Part Two
Providing a Good Home to Chickens Part Three


If you are not zoned for chickens, keep it that way! There are too many problems with chickens living in urban environments.

If your town or city is already zoned for chickens, check out the specifics of the ordinances and ensure that they are as humane as possible.

If you have read through all of this material and still want to live with chickens, adopt from a farmed animal sanctuary or animal shelter. Note, though, that sanctuaries have strict adoption protocols to protect the animals.


Animal Place
Chicken Run Rescue
Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center
Farm Sanctuary
Sunny Skies Bird and Animal Sanctuary
United Poultry Concerns


  • […] Eastern Shore Sanctuary Blog: Collective Position Statement on Backyard Poultry […]
  • The folks seeking to legalize chickens in Cedar Rapids, Iowa have no intention of abusing the hens. In fact, many of us seek to provide chickens that need to be rescued, or are unwanted, with a safe, happy environment to live in as pets. Please do not continue to contact our city council and make claims about people you do not know. The fact that you have acted before you contacted any of the members of CLUC to find out what we’re all about saddens me, as it’s obvious we have so much in common.
  • This is the most ridiculous bunch of horse hockey that I’ve seen in years. Why don’t you say what you mean, that you are really against eating meat and animal by-products (like eggs?) Trying to build a case based on fear tactics against the backyard poultry owner is unethical and distasteful. You are doing yourself more harm than good by alienating people would would be the first to help you in your efforts to help injured animals.
  • bravebird
    A longer version of this statement, along with an accompanying cover letter, was sent to the city council and mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It is clear that these comments are in response to those materials, which were intended to provide a rounded and complete platform of ideas upon which a reasonable decision could be made.

    It is clear that a viable discussion is impossible, given the tenor and contents of these comments. I will simply state that unless and until human beings recognize that members of other species are not ours to do with as we will, we will never have justice or freedom from terror on this planet.

    That is all this coalition of animal sanctuaries is saying when it comes down to it: that no one species (US) has the right to treat members of another species (in this case CHICKENS) as their personal property. And regardless of how well or poorly chickens are treated when they are bred, hatched, shipped, and controlled by humans, that is exactly what is going on.

  • victoria figurelli
    I truely believe that t he coalition of animal sanctuaries is just trying to protect the chickens.I live is La county in california and I have 17 pet chickens and 5 are rescues from a feed store that people did not want anymore .They came from a breeeder and not show quality so the feed store sells them for profit .These were returned when I was buying feed for the other chickens so I took them .I would hope that people would know how to take care of there chickens and provide them what what they need.
  • A. Martin
    We need to spread more info about how wonderful chickens are. They make incredible friends, and if more people were allowed (removing viscious speciesist laws from towns who are only acting on ignorance – you can have dangerous barking dogs, but god forbid your gentle roo crows occasionally. I’m exposing the hypocrisy here. Ever hear of a person mauled by a chicken? And frankly, what do these ear sensitives do about the wild bird cacaphony that happens every morning? We need to start treating speciesism like any other “ism”, and until non-humans are no longer subjugated freely, cruelty will remain.) to keep birds, we’d have less issues. Local breeders are the best resource, but like anything, they must be held to high standards. And please, you just can’t pick out hens – this is ridiculous. I can’t tell my birds to just “make” hens. I would NEVER sell birds to these kind of people, in general. We will always need to be vigilant to pursue abusers (people will always default here, we need higher penalties as punishment). We also need to educate about about the insane “rooster phobia” that exists amongst the ignorant. Roosters need training and kind handling. They are loving, intelligent members of the flock. And they ARE necessary in order for the birds to fulfill their cultural interests. Feeding and cleaning is NOT enough, we must give our chickens room to engage in “natural” processes. In 90% of cases it is not the animal, but the humans who are at fault. Chickens are not potted plants, they need handling and training. There are no rooster problems only negligent human problems.
  • soledad
    I used to be vegan (I know, I know, you’re already cursing me) and can appreciate all of the concerns about eating animals. My reason for going vegan at the time was the poor treatment of animals (horrific treatment is more like it!) and the environmental concerns (specifically how much more water, resources, etc, are used the higher up the food chain we eat).

    However, I started looking at my vegan diet and how far everything I was eating had to be trucked in (I live in a northern climate) and the contribution that has on climate change (animals can’t live on a dead planet either), the loss of animal habitat both on the farm and on the way to the farm and even the impact of trucks on wild animals.

    [Here’s some shocking stats I just found on the net: Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People Newspaper estimated that the following animals are being killed by motor vehicles in the United States annually:

    * 41 million squirrels
    * 26 million cats
    * 22 million rats
    * 19 million opossums
    * 15 million raccoons
    * 6 million dogs
    * 350,000 deer]

    It started making more sense to me, based on where I live, to start eating chickens and eggs raised locally, humanely and organically. I thought it would be even better to raise them myself, in the city where I live, making sure they are well cared for. We were able to find a local farm that sells chicks that have been raised humanely. Our chickens also eat our veggie scraps and help fertilize our garden, where we grow most of our produce. Eating close to home reduces our impact on the planet and I hope, reduces the number of animals killed on the road – which I consider one of the most senseless ways for animals to die.

    Of course, my diet, in fact, no diet is perfect, but we still have to eat. There are all kinds of decisions to make no matter what our diet is, but most people don’t see these decisions. The closer to home we eat, however, the more we see how our food is produced, how animals are treated, what resources go into it and what kinds of wastes are produced. Without this knowledge, most people don’t even think about where their food comes from and as a result, are the ones buying chickens from factory farms – a far more heinous way for animals to live than any backyard hen house. When we got our chickens, I was amazed at the questions we got – questions that show me how disconnected people are from how food is produced. Our city chickens are giving city children the chance to connect with animals, connect with where their food comes from and in doing so, I hope they will be more likely to take up the fight against the factory farming of animals.

    I think you raise some good issues that city chicken farmers should consider: Where do we get the chicks from and how were they treated before we got them? Do we have enough space for them to be happy? Do we have the time to make sure their living environment is kept clean enough?

    I’d add some more: What’s in the feed and where does it come from? What are we going to do with the roosters? What are we going to do when our hens stop laying? If we are going to eat our birds, what’s the least painful way to kill them? Who do we know with the experience to make sure this is done as quickly and humanely as possible?

    There is lots to consider, but there’s lots to consider in everything we eat, even if it is just vegetables.

  • bravebird
    Soledad, we all do have to eat, and I agree completely that the use of fossil fuels to grow and transport mass-market vegetables is enormously problematic. It is also true that motorized vehicles murder billions of animals each year.

    But to go from there to the assumption that we ourselves must murder animals so we can eat them makes no logical sense. One can eat locally-grown vegetables. One can even get locally-grown gluten to make one’s own seitan. One need never, in fact, murder anyone in order to eat, unless one is a carnivore, which humans are not, and one need not rely upon the mass consumption of fossil fuels to do so.

    I am not cursing you, but I suspect that your desire to eat eggs and flesh has led you to make some illogical rationalizations. Murder is murder and it matters not how the knife is wielded, or what kind of life the victim had before she was murdered.

  • soledad
    If you believe that killing animals for food is murder (an immoral act) than of course my reasoning would make no logical sense. There is really no point in arguing with you on that, because it is a strongly held belief that I would not even attempt to change. I, someone who has a killed my own chickens to eat them, no matter how I did it, am in your belief system, a murderer. According to that belief system, then, someone who lives in the arctic and eats seal meat or fish instead of vegetables, even if plants cannot grow within thousands of miles of their home, is a murderer. I think it must be a very painful world to live in when you believe that killing animals for food is murder.

    I don’t believe that killing animals for food is necessarily murder. I do believe it matters how the knife is wielded and what kind of life the victim had before she was killed. There are times when I would consider killing animals murder – like when animals are skinned alive or killed in malice or without regard for their being alive, or when they are tortured to the point of death – but when they are killed for food, in a humane way (to define that of course if very complicated), I don’t believe it is murder. I do belief that killing is killing and that killing animals is not and should not be easy. It is taking another beings’ life. I think it is extremely important to have strong cultural and legal restrictions built up around how this is done and when it is okay/not okay. In our industrialized system of agriculture animals are seen as a means to make money and not as a life that is being taken. This system is horrible for both the animals and the workers, who would have to disassociate themselves from what they are doing, and to disconnect themselves from the animals, in order to do their work.

    It is within this belief system, that I made my decision both to become vegan and to eat meat again. I’m afraid that these beliefs, like yours, are strongly held and it’s probably a waste of time to argue with them (although I have considered those arguments deeply before arriving at my current belief system).

    Where we can agree, however, is that a local diet is better for the planet and that a healthy planet is better for animals. I would love find some research into the carbon footprint of various diets that is done by geographic zones. For example, the carbon footprint of a vegan diet in a temperate climate would be very different from an arctic climate. As I said earlier, my reason for eating chicken (I won’t eat beef, even though I loved it as a kid and probably still would, because of it’s ecological footprint) is based on a cooler climate where we can only grow food 6 months out of the year, unless we use plastic, heating systems, etc. There are farmers experimenting with growing grains locally, but it’s certainly not enough to live on, not yet anyways.

    Saying that killing animals for food is murder won’t change my diet (my logic derives from my own belief system.), however, if it can be proved that I can have a lower ecological footprint with a healthy vegan diet in my bio region, then I could change my mind.

    I also think it would be more worthwhile, if even from a purely strategic point of view, to go after factory farms or to continue the good work of the Eastern Shore Sanctuary, by working to save Roosters from cockfighting operations, than to lobby against backyard chicken farming (even if you believe it is murder). There are a lot more animals living much worse lives in those operations and a lot more people who would agree with you.

  • Luna
    Heh, looks like you hit a nerve with the backyard chicken people. Must have caught them off gaurd, they’re so used to being praised for being “sustainable” and whatnot they never would have guessed anyone would challenge them. Reading some of their excuses it seems like they’re just grasping at straws.
  • bravebird
    Soledad, you are correct, there is no point in discussing the matter further.

    Luna, you are also correct, this is a HUGE nerve. When folks have worked it out in their heads that exploiting and killing other animals is actually a GOOD thing to do, the walls of self-defense are so thick that their only choice is to lash out against anyone who would say anything else. Otherwise, they would have to take a good hard look at their own actions and see how much pain they are causing, and most of them simply aren’t strong enough for that.

  • I worked at the PO for a while. Don’t get chicks through the mail. It is horrible. Rescue them or do without. Think about how you will deal with the waste. Think about disposing of roosters. These are all legitimate concerns. Tiny yards are not for chickens. In big yards, how will you protect them? If you think it through and can make them a safe, clean home, and you can rescue them instead of encouraging breeding, I support you. But town regulations should address these concerns.
  • reading through the post and comments is an eye opener. i do hope people will be lenient enough and kind enough to the chickens and to those who value these creatures. i love watching chickens in the backyard. they dont harm anyone but people do abuse them.
  • Thank you for this post. My local biofuels co-op recently started selling chicks from McMurray Hatcheries and I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea. I’m in California, BTW, so I know those chicks traveled at least 2,000 miles by post from Iowa. This page has been extremely helpful and will definitely inform the letter I am going to be writing to them.
  • bravebird

    Thank you too! I do hope this helps, and please let us know the outcome of this situation!


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