People in Chicago are abandoning their pandemic chickens

After realizing that taking care of backyard chickens is hard work, people have been giving them up.

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chickens
Photo: AFP/AFP (Getty Images)

I like to take walks in my neighborhood as often as I can, and it’s not unusual for me to see small groups of chickens wandering around on the sidewalk—though I admit it’s not something you see very often in other parts of Chicago. I have friends who have their own backyard city chickens, and they take good care of their feathered friends. In turn, they get lots of fresh, delicious, eggs. But not everyone is doing the same: Block Club Chicago is reporting a big uptick in backyard chicken abandonment, likely due to the end of the pandemic, and rescuers are having a hard time keeping up.

During the pandemic, many people thought it would be a good idea to adopt chickens. Many of them discovered that backyard chickens are a lot of work and now, pardon the expression, the chickens are coming home to roost. One group called Chicago Roo Crew, a female-led organization specializing in rooster rescue, is having such a hard time keeping up with all the birds that have been given up that they’ve had to stop taking in additional animals. The chickens they’re currently caring for require medical help, and that doesn’t come cheap.

“They’re very special, intelligent animals,” Julia Magnus, an animal-rights lawyer and a volunteer member of Chicago Roo Crew, told Block Club. The birds that are fortunate enough to be fostered tend to need special care, as some have parasitic infections and upper respiratory issues, while others are have been badly injured. Chicago winters can be pretty unforgiving, so frostbite is also a common chicken ailment in the cold months.

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A small Roo Crew can’t go it alone, so the group partners up with other organizations in the city, like Chicago Chicken Rescue, to coordinate rescues. The Roo Crew, Chicago Animal Care and Control, and the police worked together on a successful cockfighting ring bust in the Englewood neighborhood in 2019. That ultimately saved a whopping 114 birds that would otherwise have been euthanized.

If anything, it’s always important to remember that caring for animals takes a lot of effort, and if you don’t think you can shoulder unexpected expenses for them or deal with some pretty gnarly situations (see this piece about chicken care from former Takeout managing editor Kate Bernot), you should probably just buy your own eggs.