Do backyard chicken coops put the “fun” in farming?
Despite visions of quaint coops, happy birds and cheap eggs, the growing trend of raising backyard chickens in urban settings is backfiring, as disillusioned city dwellers, eco-enthusiasts and hipsters are running from their coops as fast as their Birkenstocks can carry them.
Over the last several months, there have been dozens of articles written about how hundreds of chickens are being abandoned at the nation’s shelters from California to New York as naïve urbanites discover that—surprise, surprise—farming is actually hard work and takes a lot more knowledge and skill than they anticipated.
Raising poultry can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive. Want to take a vacation? Who’s going to care for your flock? It’s 5 degrees below zero in your neighborhood today: Who’s going out to check on your birds and see to their well-being and comfort in inclement weather? Predator on the loose? Fox got your chickens?
There are reasons why our food is produced by less than two percent of our population— (a) not everyone has the skills, knowledge and understanding of what it takes to raise animals for food; and (b) not everyone has the time, patience, wherewithal and inclination to grow their own food. That’s where farmers come in—they’ve made a life commitment to the near herculean feat of producing food for an ever-expanding population.
We’ve all heard the statistics: by 2050 we need to feed 9.1 billion people. Having a backyard flock may be a fun hobby (albeit short-lived for many), but guess what? Those 9.1 billion people aren’t going to be fed by a smattering of chicken coops scattered among high-rise apartments and city brownstones.
I’ve had many conversations with people about why certain trends take off so enthusiastically. The food revolution, the” locavore” movement, or being a “foodie,” are all examples of popular trends that sweep people up and cause them to think about things and make decisions they otherwise wouldn’t.
This “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality is nothing new for Americans. It’s what causes us to build a better mousetrap, buy a bigger house and drive a faster car. It’s also what causes some Americans to wake up to a rooster crowing in their backyard when they thought they had sweet, innocent, egg-laying hens. (Didn’t anyone tell those hipsters that chickens are notoriously hard to sex?)
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