Urban Chickens Abandoned by 'Hipster Farmers' When Eggs Stop

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 11:11 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Reports of young "hipster farmers" abandoning hundreds of chickens have dampened the initial enthusiasm behind the foodie movement in which 20-somethings opt for natural, home-grown diets.

Hipster farmers turn over hundreds of chickens to shelters across the country once they stop producing, NBC News reported. The birds can live longer than a decade after their egg-laying days are over.

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Mary Britton Clouse, who owns the shelter Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, said the number of chickens her shelter rescued climbed from less than 50 in 2001 to nearly 500 in 2012.

"It’s the stupid foodies,” she said. "We’re just sick to death of it."

Caring for chickens can be expensive and time-consuming, as they frequently make messes. They're also noisy, which is why many are quick to abandon them once they stop producing eggs.

"Many areas with legalized hen-keeping are experiencing more and more of these birds coming in when they’re no longer wanted," Paul Shapiro, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States told NBC News. "You get some chicks and they’re very cute, but it’s not as though you can throw them out in the yard and not care for them."

Flocks of 20-somethings seek grass-fed and pasture-raised foods in a new foodie movement that "shuns industrial, mechanized farming," according to a 2011 New York Times feature. This generation "lists punk rock, Karl Marx and the food journalist Michael Pollan as their influences."

Rob Ludlow, author and operator of the website BackYardChickens.com, said that the urban farming movement is still strong and as education grows, young farmers will be better equipped to handle the challenges of running a small, urban farm.

"We’ve experienced smell, noise, pests, etc., way more from improperly cared for dogs and cats than we have from backyard chickens," said Ludlow, who told NBC News that his website has grown from 50 members in 2007 to 200,000 today. "Hundreds of thousands of people are realizing the wonderful benefits of raising a small flock of backyard chickens, the pets that make you breakfast."

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