THE RSPCA fears chickens are being abandoned after people bought chicks during the first lockdown and now cannot care for them – especially following bird flu warnings.
The animal welfare charity is concerned at the number of hens and cockerels being abandoned and fears rescue centres will be overrun with birds soon.
Last year the RSPCA dealt with 13 incidents relating to chickens in Warwickshire, but across the UK there was a total of around 1,600 with most calls about abandoned birds. The charity has also taken 280 chickens into its centres for rehoming.
A charity spokesperson said: “Concerns were raised during lockdown about the increase in pet acquisition and ownership, and we feared people would soon lose interest and start to hand their animals over once life started to return to normal.
“In the spring, many hen producers reported huge surges in demand for chicks and we believe this may be because people panic bought birds due to shortages of eggs in the supermarkets but, due to the shops being better stocked, are now ‘surplus to requirement’. There are also concerns that some families may have taken on unsexed chicks, which have grown into noisy cockerels so are now being abandoned.
Last month three hens were abandoned in a cage outside the RSPCA branch in Coventry and are now being cared for by the charity.
Across the country other incidents have included hens dumped by bins and in laybys and bloodied cockerels dumped in a box.
The RSPCA fears the problem could worsen as cases of bird flu are confirmed across the country, in both wild and captive birds.
This means bird keepers now need to keep their birds contained indoors and follow government biosecurity advice.
Charity poultry welfare specialist Kate Parkes said: “It’s really important that owners follow government biosecurity advice to help protect the health of their birds as well as to try and limit the spread of the virus. All pet poultry owners need to stay vigilant for signs of disease and ill health in their flocks and it’s vital they seek veterinary advice if they have any concerns for their birds.
“We’re concerned that worries about bird flu and changes to how we’re allowed to keep hens may lead to more owners abandoning their pets, putting more pressure on rescue centres.”
Visit www.rspca.org.uk for more information or to find out more about rehoming chickens.