Chicken craze fuelling rise in unwanted birds

Lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic led to a surge in people obtaining hens for home production of eggs. Now, if you know what you’re doing, adopting a hen or a cockerel is a wonderful thing to do. But the problem is birds are being acquired by people who haven’t thought things through.

First of all, many birds are sold as hens when in fact they turn out to be cockerels. Bear in mind it’s fiendishly difficult to tell the sex of a chicken until it’s at least six months old, so if someone tells you it’s a hen, make sure you trust them and do ask questions. Many people end up discovering they have a cockerel, which of course doesn’t lay eggs.

This has led to a surge in unwanted cockerels and charities are struggling to accommodate them. We at The Farm Sanctuary have even had boxes of cockerels dumped on our doorstep overnight twice this year!

If it does turn out to be a cockerel, or you took on a cockerel knowingly, bear in mind that they make noise. We see a lot of birds given up for adoption because people weren’t prepared for the complaints from neighbours being woken early in the morning. So having a cockerel means having land, ideally, or at least very understanding neighbours.

Also bear in mind that cockerels, if you have more than one, may end up fighting, particularly if they are kept in a small space with few hens, so you’ll need to make sure they can be housed separately and that you have the space for this.

Finally, remember that you’re dealing with a living creature who has a reasonable expectation of a good life. Don’t treat them just as a commodity; your animal will always be happiest if loved and cared for properly. But this means doing your research and not rushing into getting one. Like everything in life, know what you’re getting into!