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‘Chickens are not just for lockdown!’: Hundreds of noisy cockerels are being dumped by owners who tried to raise hens during last year’s Covid egg shortage
- The novice owners bought fertilised eggs and then hatched them themselves
- But in some cases cockerels were born instead and people are less keen on them
- More than 1,500 abandoned cockerels and hens dealt with by the RSPCA
Hundreds of cockerels have been abandoned by people who tried to raise hens because of fears of an egg shortage during the first coronavirus lockdown.
The novice owners bought fertilised eggs and then hatched them themselves during the initial coronavirus lockdown, which began in March and lasted until July, in the hope of having hens which could lay eggs.
But when in many cases male birds were born instead, the Britons decided their noisy crowing was too much for them and their neighbours to bear.
That, and new bird flu regulations imposed in December meant that the RSPCA was forced to deal more than 1,500 cockerels and hens in 2021.
Other unscrupulous owners have taken to dumping them in the countryside.
For one animal charity, the issue has become so bad that they no longer have any room to take in new cockerels.
Hundreds of cockerels have been abandoned by people who tried to raise hens because of fears of an egg shortage during the first coronavirus lockdown. Pictured: One abandoned cockerel which has been taken in by the Margaret Green Animal Rescue centre in Purbeck, Dorset
Jazmin House, a spokeswoman for Margaret Green Animal Rescue in Wareham, Dorset, said: ‘During the first lockdown it was very difficult to get into supermarkets and get hold of eggs.
‘It led to people having the bright idea of getting their own chickens to produce eggs in the morning.
‘I even heard stories of people trying to incubate eggs themselves – which unfortunately doesn’t work.
‘The cockerels that hatched are now at an age when they are starting to roost and people don’t want them because they are too loud in the mornings.
‘We are now at our capacity and will only be taking them on in emergencies.
‘We don’t have any issues re-homing chickens but roosters seem to be less desirable so it can be hard to get them out again.’
In November and December, the government imposed measures to help slow the spread of bird flu.
The rules now require keepers of all types of birds to keep them inside and to follow strict biosecurity regulations.
The novice owners bought fertilised eggs and then hatched them themselves during the initial coronavirus lockdown, which began in March and lasted until July, in the hope of having hens which could lay eggs. Pictured: Katie Wickins, the manager at the rescue centre, with one of the previously abandoned chickens
The RSPCA has dealt with 1,562 abandoned birds in the UK this year and has had to take in 280 birds for rehoming.
West Yorkshire has the highest recorded number of chicken incidents at 62 between January and November 2020.
Greater Manchester closely follows at 56 followed by Wales at 55, Lancashire at 53 and Greater London, at 50.
Four had died but the other seven were rushed to Harmsworth Animal Hospital by rescuers Mike Beaman and Jade Guthrie where they’re now being cared for.
Dozens of hens and cockerels have been dumped in recent weeks, sparking fears that charities and rescue centres will soon be overrun with unwanted chickens.
On December 8, the RSPCA was called after 11 hens were found dumped down an alleyway in Ealing, west London.
The RSPCA has dealt with 1,562 abandoned birds in the UK this year and has had to take in 280 birds for rehoming. Pictured: Some of the abandoned chickens the RSPCA has dealt with
The RSPCA said concerns were raised during lockdown about the increase in pet acquisition and ownership
West Yorkshire had recorded 62 chicken incidents between January and November while Greater Manchester closely follows at 56. Pictured: The abandoned birds that have been reported to the animal charity (left and right)
Four days earlier, three hens were abandoned in a cage outside an RSPCA branch in Coventry, West Midlands, and are now being cared for by the charity.
Meanwhile in Kent, inspector Grace Harris-Bridge collected three chickens who had been abandoned in a tiny, filthy cage in Canterbury and are now in private boarding.
Two days earlier, a cockerel was found straying in a garden in Poole, Dorset, after neighbours spotted it and confined it.
Jo Blackburn, an RSPCA animal welfare officer, said: ‘I’ve never seen a time like it before for all the abandoned birds we’ve been getting.
‘We had one case where 16 birds were abandoned in woodland in the middle of nowhere.
The RSPCA fears more owners will abandon their pets as the cases of bird flu rise in the country
‘They are not able to fend for themselves and sadly by the time we got the call 15 of them had already been killed by predators.
‘It’s just heart-breaking and you wonder why people would do that.’
She added: ‘Chickens and cockerels make fabulous pets that are super-intelligent but they can be quite complicated and you’ve got to have the right set up.
‘The birds live for several years and people need to be committed to keeping them for their lifespan.’
She added: ‘For the amateur bird keeper it would be nigh on impossible to know the sex of a bird when it is still in the egg, which is what appears to have happened in recent cases.
Owners must now keep their birds indoors and must follow the Government’s biosecurity advice
‘It is always best for people to buy an adult bird because you know exactly what sex you are getting.’
Meanwhile one poultry farmer has been left facing the prospect of culling a number of chickens from his flock due to the lack of demand from restaurants.
Ben Jackson, who runs Fluffetts Farm in Fordingbridge, Hants, saw sales fall off a cliff after the pandemic led to the closure of restaurant, hotels and schools.
The farm has 13,000 free range chickens laying about 12,000 eggs a day.
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