The RSPCA is reporting that chickens are being abandoned across the country after many people bought bought chicks during lockdown and now can’t take care of them - particularly in light of bird flu warnings.

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.

Up to November 30 this year the RSPCA had dealt with 1,594 incidents related to chickens across England and Wales, including 18 in Cornwall, and has had abandonment incidents relating to 1,562 birds. The charity has also taken 280 chickens into its centres for rehoming.

Large cities have seen the highest number of callouts, with 50 chicken incidents in Greater London and 56 in Greater Manchester, although West Yorkshire has seen the highest number of incidents at 62.

An RSPCA spokesperson 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."

Falmouth Packet: Many people bought chicks during lockdown but are now dumping them. Picture: RSPCAMany people bought chicks during lockdown but are now dumping them. Picture: RSPCA

The RSPCA fears that this problem could worsen as cases of bird flu are confirmed across the country, in both wild birds and captive birds. This means that bird keepers need to keep their birds contained indoors as of December 14 and the charity recommends the owners of all captive birds follow the Government’s biosecurity advice.

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.”

The charity is asking anyone who would like to get a flock of chickens to consider rescuing ex-battery hens or adopting from a charity like the RSPCA, which has lots of cockerels and hens looking for new homes, including:

  • Snap, Crackle and Pop, three young bantam cockerels aged six months old at RSPCA Taylors Animal Rehoming Centre, in Dorset.
  • Cockerel Cluck Norris and his hens Chickira, Princess Layer and Ameilia Egghart all looking for a home together from RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre, in Hertfordshire.

Visit the RSPCA website to find out more about keeping chickens as pets and to see all of the chickens looking for new homes.