Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Are chickens a farm animal or a pet? That’s a question that many city leaders have to answer as chickens become the new trend in pet ownership.
More than a dozen metro area cities allow chickens within their limits.
Four years ago, Garrett Young took on a new pet, a hen named Phoebe. Since then, one chicken has grown to a flock of five.
“They all have names and they all have unique personalities,” Young said.
In the backyard of his Minnetonka home, he’s created a haven for his pet poultry.
“Chickens require daily attention,” he said. “You have to bring them food and water and make sure they’re warm in the winter time. It’s kind of a long haul.”
Young is one of a growing number of people who no longer see chickens as just a farm animal.
“There’s just something kind of unique about having chickens,” he said.
But this new fad isn’t a fit for everyone. That’s where Mary Britton Clouse comes in. She owns Chicken Run Rescue, a sanctuary for hens and roosters that have been abandoned or mistreated.
When Chicken Run Rescue opened in 2001, they only had four or five birds. But with the push for urban chicken ownership, they’re now taking on hundreds of birds a year.
“We’ve expanded as far as we can here,” Britton Clouse said.
She believes part of the problem is lack of regulation for owners who aren’t prepared to care for their birds. Chickens need protection from predators, and they can’t withstand the frigid temperatures of a Minnesota winter.
“They have the same needs as a dog,” Britton Clouse said.
Another reason for the spike in abandoned and mistreated chickens is that the birds are often only seen as a food source. Chickens eventually stop producing eggs, and Britton Clouse says that’s when they usually wind up in her facility.
“They’re not familiar with the birds and while they think they’re doing something kind for the birds, really, anytime you’re extracting and using an animal for food, there’s going to be compromises for the animal’s life,” Britton Clouse said.
Mary is fighting for stricter guidelines and education as more cities consider allowing chicken ownership.
“We’re trying to find that path where people are going to appreciate these creatures for the wonderful individuals that they are and not what they are going to get out of them,” Britton Clouse said.