what to do with a stray chicken
July 4, 2021 5:24 AM   Subscribe

A stray chicken has taken up residence in my yard. What can I do?

I live in a city where chickens aren’t allowed. I also don’t have any desire to raise a chicken, even if I could. But I’ve kind of taken a liking to this guy (girl, I guess), and I’d like her to have a good outcome.

At this point, I’m not really counting a return to her owner as a good outcome. The owner doesn’t seem like a responsible chicken owner. The chicken has been on its own for probably a week now, and nobody is doing anything noticeable to recover her. No fliers on telephone poles or anything. The only Facebook posts have been from me and my wife asking if she belongs to anyone. I’ve also posted on Nextdoor, but so far the three posts have only gotten KFC jokes.

My neighbor, whose yard the chicken is also using, wants to call Animal Control to remove the chicken, but I’m not thrilled about that idea. Doesn’t seem like something that leads to a long, happy life.

I don’t know anything about taking care of chickens. I’ve been putting out some birdseed for her to eat, but I’m not sure what else to do. It’s been raining for a few days and I assume she wants to stay dry. I’d also prefer not to have my yard covered in chicken poop.

I guess worst-case scenario, I have a co-worker who lives on a farm and he might take her? I don’t know.
posted by kevinbelt to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would at least call your local humane society. Ours does have chickens and we have adopted a few from there. Yours may not, but they probably can give you good local advice.
posted by evilmomlady at 5:37 AM on July 4, 2021 [8 favorites]

Sunrise Farm Animal Sanctuary looks like it’s near you if you’re still in Columbus. If you’re not, search for farm animal sanctuary with your location.
posted by FencingGal at 5:53 AM on July 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

Worth noting that often when you find a stray chicken in the city it is because the owner is one of the new breed of hobby chicken keepers who is breeding them for eggs but can't deal with slaughtering, so when a hen gets old enough she stops laying unsatisfactory solutions are found like releasing her to find a new home. It would probably be hard for you to tell if her wattles, comb and legs are faded from the colour she had when she was young, however. That and the number of eggs she produces or doesn't produce is how you tell her age once she is adult. However if she is stressed she's not going to lay the same number she would if she wasn't stressed.

Look for a feeds and needs store that sells chicken feed and ask them if they can connect you with the hobby farm community. Ideally that's what you want - someone who would take her in as a pet.

You could also try an ad in the Hoobly Classifieds for Ohio in the Pets and Animals section.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:17 AM on July 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

The chicken has been on its own for probably a week now, and nobody is doing anything noticeable to recover her. No fliers on telephone poles or anything.

In their defence, I can see it being difficult to figure out how best to publicise that you've lost your illegal chicken. (I would still give up on reuniting her with her owners though, because I can't see any way of finding them other than the routes you've already tried.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:28 AM on July 4, 2021 [12 favorites]

Is there an earth-mama crunchy-granola garden store in your area? If so, I'd call them just on a hunch...if none of the staff have chickens themselves, they might know who would.
posted by Gray Duck at 6:35 AM on July 4, 2021

Response by poster: “I can't see any way of finding them other than the routes you've already tried”

So as it turns out, there’s one other way, which is to chase the chicken across several yards until you find a neighbor with a large rooster operation in their backyard.

After I posted, someone finally responded seriously to my wife’s Facebook post. I guess she has some experience rescuing poultry? Anyway, she came over with a cage and some feed, and the plan was for her to catch him (oh yeah, turns out it was a rooster, which tells you how much I know about chickens) and then take him to a friend. She, my neighbor, and I chased the chicken around the neighborhood for a while, like John Cheever’s swimmer, until finally our new poultry rescue friend found the rooster pens. We got him back in that yard and that was good enough. She then went to knock on the owners’ door.

The absolutely sublime detail in all of this is that, as all this was happening, another neighbor had his stereo playing fairly loudly. The song? “Free Bird.” You can’t make this up.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:24 AM on July 4, 2021 [57 favorites]

Wait, you live in town not far from a bunch of cockerels among laying hens and you don't know about it?!?
posted by k3ninho at 7:38 AM on July 4, 2021 [19 favorites]

I'm glad this is solved, but I would like to add for information's sake that people have backyard chickens in my area, and when a chicken goes missing, it is generally assumed that a hawk or other predator nabbed it for dinner and not much energy is spent trying to track it down.
posted by molasses at 7:58 AM on July 4, 2021 [10 favorites]

Also for future readers, chickens are like cats. Some of them stay in their yard, but some of them roam. They're not lost until they don't go home at night.

And chickens need a flock, you can't keep just one and have it be happy.
posted by aniola at 8:39 AM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So... less happy update to our happy ending. We heard from our poultry rescue lady after she’d talked to our neighbors, and she suspects they’re running a cockfighting operation. I’ve made a call to Animal Control.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:56 PM on July 4, 2021 [19 favorites]

That was immediately my guess when you said "large rooster operation"

Because people suck
posted by DebetEsse at 3:07 PM on July 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

That must have been a tough call. But hopefully those roosters will have better lives soon.

I'd like to point out for future readers that cockfighting is a felony in most states in the US. If, knowing that, you don't feel comfortable calling animal control, you can leave an anonymous note threatening to call animal control first.
posted by aniola at 7:55 AM on July 5, 2021

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