Sunday, March 07, 2010

One Challenge to No Kill: Roosters

The other day I wrote about Nathan Winograd's "Redemption" and some of my evolving thoughts on "no kill." I mentioned one of my concerns with truly achieving a no kill community, which is placing unsafe animals (especially dogs). Another one of my concerns is roosters. I deal with a lot of roosters- it seems to come in waves, but sometimes I get multiple rooster calls a day, sometimes not for a month. I don't like rooster calls for many reasons, and one of them is that almost inevitably, the roosters are euthanized. Roosters are illegal in my jurisdiction, and like Winograd, I agree that this kind of legislation is detrimental to truly achieving progressive animal welfare. I wasn't involved in the legislation being written, but I'm guessing it was a combination of a noise/nuisance ordinance and a preventative for cock fighting, which we do have here. It's not working, either way. Some people have roosters for any reason you would have chickens, and they're just crowing, which annoys people who live in an urban environment, and some people have roosters because they're going to fight them. The ordinance isn't stopping anyone from having roosters. It's giving us easier access to seize the roosters and/or cite people for having the roosters, but it's not preventing ownership or euthanasia.

Roosters are not easy animals to place. They're not easy animals to live next door to, which is why we get call after call about them, and we get a lot of valid cock fighting calls. I broke up an active cock fight, and it was probably the most horrific thing I've ever seen. I've dealt with pre-cock fights and post-cock fights. Every time I walk into a yard and see coops with one rooster per box, and 5-20 roosters on a property with not one hen, I really only have one conclusion to draw. If someone says they like the sound of a gallo, which I believe some people truly do, they don't need multiple roosters. If they want chickens for food, they're going to have some hens and some roosters, and the birds are not going to be uniform looking with cut combs and sawed off spurs. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but really? So, what to do with these roosters, after I seize them? I don't want to give the owners time to move them, like I used to, because they're going to relocate them and fight them later. I think most people will agree that law or no law, it's not humane to leave the birds on scene to be fought. I'm not going to post the gory details of a cock fight here (I discussed it a little here), but it's atrocious, and I have a pretty tough stomach.

So, when I come back to the shelter with 5-20 roosters, where am I going to house them? I can't house them together, because they will fight. In the no kill philosophy, space and housing should not be an issue. I agree, in theory, but roosters are a tough one. If there was a livestock barn, they would still need separate cages, and they are really tough to clean. In a urban shelter, housing them in regular cages is even tougher, and even harder to clean. It's not ok to leave them sitting in their crap with spilled water and food around. And if the shelter creates space to house roosters, then where do we send them? Few people want to adopt roosters, and we can't adopt them in our jurisdiction. We've sent one or two at a time to ranches and farms and sanctuaries. But in mass quantities? According to this article, they can be rehabilitated, and I believe it. I'm no cock expert. But it's time and space consuming. And there are a lot of roosters to rehabilitate, especially with the rising popularity of backyard chickens. This article expresses some of my misgivings about euthanizing all fighting roosters "just because": it really does seem comparable to euthanizing all fighting pit bulls "just because" they're fighting pit bulls. So maybe we'll get to the point where we can evaluate each rooster as an individual. In the meantime, I see roosters as a major obstacle to getting to no kill, at least here. (For example, we took in 11 today.)


Joni said...

>I see roosters as a major obstacle to getting to no kill, at least here. (For example, we took in 11 today.)

Where is here? I looked at your profile, but didn't see your location listed.

As for Roosters, I never even thought about them before when I thought about No-Kill, but you are right in some areas roosters are a problem that ACO's have to deal with.

I don't know if there is an easy answer to this issue. Many people eat chickens and don't have the same compassion for them as for the furry pets. And as you say they are not the easiest animals to live with unless you are on a farm.

Hope someone pipes in and gives some suggestions.

Rinalia said...

Thanks for talking about this issue. I work for Animal Place and we have the same problem - we get a lot of calls about roosters. It's hard to find good homes and most sanctuaries are full of roos (we have more than twelve).

I hope, over time, there will be a paradigm shift and, at the very least, roosters will be evaluated for placement. My heart aches for former fighting roosters. Of all the chickens who end up in shelters, they are the ones most deserving of a nice, normal home.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of roosters as a problem in no kill shelters. There's so little I don't know. Here, in a New Orleans burb, we have a public park with undomesticated ducks, chickens, roosters, geese, rabbits, nutria, etc. Some were dumped there by their former owners but many wild animals gravitate there because the habitat it optimal and visitors come to feed them every day. There is even a feral cat colony that is fed by volunteers every day. There are many roosters that tend to hang around the edges of the park. They each seem to have their own area with their own harem of hens. They bother no one and in the park they have the right of way. After Hurricane Katrina the animals were fine but the homeless moved into the park and started eating what they could catch. Now there are beautiful varieties of roosters big and small. I love spring when there are masses of fluffy chicks scurrying too and fro. I would suggest park placement for your roosters but, neuter them first.

themacinator said...

rinalia- i was hoping you'd come over here :) i agree- with a paradigm shift, things will change. and i hope that the fight busts are an example that things CAN change. the ban on roosters suck- it's not a good law- but i do like that it gets me into people's homes who obviously have the birds with the intent to fight them. sure, first amendment privacy rights and all ;) but really, i wish people who have chickens for other reasons would a)be careful about what they're getting and b)consider the law prior to getting roos (kind of like getting a dog in a BSL area.)

anon-from what i know, it's complicated and hard to find a vet who will neuter a rooster. the anesthesia is risky, from what i understand, and not cost effective. i'm also not really that into releasing domestics into the relative wild. i'd much rather find appropriate farm settings, if they were available.

Aaron Rosenzweig said...

Have you heard of rooster collars?

I’m attempting to lift the Rooster Ban in Gaithersburg Maryland.

What if roosters do not have to crow?

What if rooster bans are just being used to take hens?

President Hoover promised a chicken in every pot. Now pot is being legalized but backyard chickens are being taken away.

Here’s a blog post I’ve written on this topic:

Petition that tells the story:

Website with doctor’s signatures in favor of collars:

Thank you,