Cumbria Crack

Fears of surge in dumped hens due to spike in lockdown pets and bird flu worries

The RSPCA fears chickens are being abandoned after lots of people went out and bought chicks during lockdown and now cannot take care of them.

The animal welfare charity which operates across England and Wales is concerned at the number of hens and cockerels being abandoned and fears rescue centres will be overrun with birds soon.

Avian flu outbreaks across the country prompted the Government to introduce new rules that birds must be kept inside.

So far this year, the RSPCA said it had dealt with 1,594 incidents related to chickens across and had abandonment incidents relating to 1,562 birds.

The charity has also taken 280 chickens into its centres for rehoming.

A charity spokeman said: “Concerns were raised during lockdown about the increase in pet acquisition and ownership, and we feared that 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.”

The RSPCA said it feared that the problem could worsen as cases of bird flu are confirmed across the country, in both wild birds and captive birds.

Bird keepers need to keep their birds contained indoors from December 14th.

Kate Parkes, poultry welfare specialist at the RSPCA, 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.”

Between January 1st and November 30th, the charity said it dealt with seven chicken incidents in Cumbria.