Chickens don’t belong at humane societies


Can you imagine a farmer or rancher taking their chickens to an animal shelter?

Yet, according to a recent MSNBC story, that’s what is happening across the country as young hipsters attempting to be locavores, people who eat food that is grown from within their own region, are dumping off their egg hens and surprise roosters on animal shelters and rescues.


Often, because these chickens become pets and the thought of killing and butchering them is too much.

However, I also suspect it is because these people are not seriously considering the implications of urban farming and lack the skills necessary to care for basic urban livestock.

Now, before I moved to Eagle Butte, I considered myself a locavore. Sure, my kids still ate chicken nuggets and I still bought spices, coffee and other items not sourced from my local farmers or ranchers, but I would guess about 60% of my personal diet was sourced from the Brookings area, East River or the Sodak region.

Considering that the average plate of food on a South Dakota table travels over 2,500 miles to reach us, yet we live in the middle of farm and ranch country, I think we all need to localize our food choices. Sometimes this means changing what sorts of foods we eat, based on availability. It can mean sacrifices, too, or spending more on the local option, but the rewards are often a lot greater. You really do get what you pay for.

All that said, I would never advise getting chickens, whether you only mean them for laying eggs or not, if you are a vegetarian or not, if you don’t know how to humanely butcher chickens.

This is where understanding permaculture can help you make the best sustainable living choices for you personally.

Now, I will freely admit that we have taken a rooster to a community member in Eagle Butte who likes pet poultry. We made the mistake of naming our egg hens and when we had a surprise rooster of an egg breed (not exactly great for eating) it was a lot easier to rehome him than kill and eat him.

So, I probably sound like a hypocrite in saying this, but I do know that if push had come to shove, I had the skills to properly kill and butcher him instead.

Our hens ended up eaten by dogs here in Eagle Butte. With the new animal ordinances being passes, I have yet to double-check with the city if a backyard flock is permissible, so we haven’t tried getting chickens again.

Some people are acting like keeping a small home flock is some sort of green badge of honor.

There is no such thing.

There are sustainable things that would work for you and some that won’t. In fact, the ‘greenest’ practice is meaningless, unless you have carefully weighed the pros and cons and have an understanding of permaculture or at least carefully weight any practice against your personal reality.

So, if you want to keep a few chickens, ask yourself these questions:

Will they add a needed, local protein source?

What will I feed them? Cost?

Where will I keep them? Cost?

Do I have the stomach and/or skills to care for health problems myself?

In the advent of age or serious injury, do I know how to humanely kill a chicken if I need to put it out of its misery? If I am a vegetarian, do I have a pet dog or cat that can make use of the protein instead of wasting it?

Do I have local city or county ordinances to be concerned with?

Do I have a sustainable way to use the waste created by the chickens?

Is there a local person who raises chickens and can mentor me?

Do I want fancy chickens or am I willing to get a breed known for both meat and eggs or just meat, if I am raising them to be butchered?

Now, these are just a few really basic questions to ask yourself. If you want more chicken resources in our area and in South Dakota, please feel free to contact me at


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