I have been raising chickens for four years, responsibly managing an urban, home flock of between eight and 35 birds. Some comments on “Chicken craze comes home to roost” (Oct. 9):
First, the problem of what to do with unwanted chickens as winter sets in is a First World, 21st-century, upper-middle-class problem.
The simple answer is: You eat them. People have been doing it for millennia now. You slow-roast an old bird covered and with a little water, and it is delicious! Or you turn it into broth. I’m sure most of the people giving up their birds eat chicken from the store. It’s a commentary on how far we have come from the source of our food that this is not obvious. To me, it’s an argument for increasing the number of people who raise their own food.
Second, coops don’t need to be heated in the wintertime. If you get heirloom, dual-purpose breeds, they are cold-hardy. They weren’t lighting a fire for the chickens on the farm in 1870; today is no different. I don’t heat my coop in the winter, and I’ve never had birds freezing to death. In fact, ventilation is more important than heat, as chickens exhale a lot of moisture as they breathe.
Third, chickens are not companion animals. They are livestock. They may be able to bond with you to a certain degree, and they do have individual personalities, but they aren’t cuddly and loyal like a dog. If you’ve been around chickens, you’d know that they are fun to watch, but they aren’t a house pet.
Fourth, with regard to illnesses, back-yard chickens are pretty safe. They don’t live in the house, which is how many diseases are transmitted between birds and humans in Asia. And they aren’t confined 50,000 to a large pen as on industrial farms, which is where the problems really come in. That the subject of the Oct. 9 story keeps chickens in her basement is more disturbing to me than the thought of some people not being ready for chicken ownership.
Finally, we are not all urban hipsters, a group the story’s author clearly disdains. Most of us raise our flocks responsibly and manage the lives our birds from beginning to end with an eye to their health and well-being.
Slaughtering a chicken that you raised from birth is part of keeping chickens. Or you can take it to the Hmong slaughterhouse in South St. Paul, and they will do it for you for about $6. Frankly, 500 unwanted birds is probably a drop in the bucket compared with the number of back-yard chickens out there.
I would hope that the Star Tribune in the future would handle the subject a little more even-handedly.
Matthew Koncar lives in Lauderdale.