Hatching a scheme to gather “free” eggs with backyard chickens costs time and money and isn’t for everyone.
In theory, it’s possible to save money having backyard hens, but gathering eggs shouldn’t be a main motivator, says the farm animal manager for the BC SPCA.
“If you’re looking for a companion animal that has a bonus of making eggs, hens are awesome,” Melissa Speirs said.
A spike in abandoned chickens, primarily the noisy males, hit a high in mid-2020 when folks found themselves at home more and filling the days with new endeavours. The issue is on a slow decline since, according to the BC SPCA.
Each municipality has its own rules around the legality of urban chickens, how many, enclosure types and other care. In general, roosters are frequently prohibited from urban coops.
When purchasing chicks, folks didn’t know or just didn’t ask about a rooster return policy. Hens and roosters look similar as chicks and even experienced breeders can mistake them. Some businesses will take a bird back if it turns out to be male. Other times, roosters are ditched or surrendered to agencies such as the SPCA, to adopt out.
“There are homes out there for roosters, it’s just a little more tricky than with hens,” Speirs said.
Full brood drop-offs or surrenders are not common, but do occur, Speirs said. While it’s hard to know why, potentially people weren’t prepared for the work involved. Unlike cats and dogs, there aren’t a lot of resources when one is overwhelmed with poultry.
“Having backyard hens is a lot of work,” Speirs said.
There’s more to hens than just eggs. They create incredible fertilizer, can keep pests at bay and make good companions.
But they’re not easy – and it’s an investment.
Anyone looking into backyard birds should learn about how to house them. That means a coop and fencing to allow them a grassy or dirt area to stretch their wings. It means finding a veterinarian – again that deals in animals other than traditional pets – and appropriate feed.
“You can’t just give them scraps from the kitchen, they do need feed to make sure there’s a balanced diet,” Speirs said. “It’s not something I would jump into without doing some research.”
Hens can live for five to 11 years, with egg-laying diminishing significantly after the first year. Chickens may stop producing well before their natural end of life and like any older animal, may require special care.