Over 1,500 chickens bought during lockdown abandoned, says RSPCA

Cockerels and hens that were bought during the lockdown are being dumped in large numbers as owners try to tackle a return of bird flu.

The RSPCA has dealt with 1,562 abandoned birds in the UK this year as new owners struggle to comply with the Government’s new biosecurity advice following the outbreak of the H5N8 strain – which has not infected any humans to date.

The charity has also taken 280 chickens into its centres for rehoming and has warned that rescue centres could soon become overrun with the abandoned birds as more people get rid of their pets.     

It comes after hen producers reported a surge in demand for chicks this spring following a shortage of eggs in supermarkets. 

Cockerels and hens are being abandoned in large numbers following the outbreak of bird flu this year. Pictured: The abandoned chickens the RSPCA has dealt with

Cockerels and hens are being abandoned in large numbers following the outbreak of bird flu this year. Pictured: The abandoned chickens the RSPCA has dealt with 

The RSPCA has dealt with 1,562 abandoned birds  across the UK  this year and has taken 280 chickens into its centres for rehoming

The RSPCA has dealt with 1,562 abandoned birds  across the UK  this year and has taken 280 chickens into its centres for rehoming

The animal charity fears that rescue centres could soon become overrun with the abandoned birds amid fears of a return of bird flu

The animal charity fears that rescue centres could soon become overrun with the abandoned birds amid fears of a return of bird flu

However bird keepers are now required to keep their birds contained indoors or netted and must follow the strict biosecurity advice that was issued last month amid fears of a return of bird flu. 

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.’

West Yorkshire has the highest recorded number of chicken incidents at 62 between January and November 2020.

Greater Manchester closely follows at 56 followed by Wales at 55, Lancashire at 53 and Greater London, at 50.

Dozens of hens and cockerels have been dumped in recent weeks, sparking fears that charities and rescue centres will soon be overrun with unwanted chickens.

On December 8, the RSPCA was called after 11 hens were found dumped down an alleyway in Ealing, west London.

This spring hen producers reported a surge in demand for chicks as the UK was met with a shortage of eggs in supermarkets

This spring hen producers reported a surge in demand for chicks as the UK was met with a shortage of eggs in supermarkets 

The RSPCA said concerns were raised during lockdown about the increase in pet acquisition and ownership

The RSPCA said concerns were raised during lockdown about the increase in pet acquisition and ownership

Chickens that have been rescued by the RSPCA

An abandoned chicken

West Yorkshire had recorded 62 chicken incidents between January and November while Greater Manchester closely follows at 56. Pictured: The abandoned birds that have been reported to the animal charity (left and right)

Four had died but the other seven were rushed to Harmsworth Animal Hospital by rescuers Mike Beaman and Jade Guthrie where they’re now being cared for.

Four days earlier, three hens were abandoned in a cage outside an RSPCA branch in Coventry, West Midlands, and are now being cared for by the charity.

Meanwhile in Kent, inspector Grace Harris-Bridge collected three chickens who had been abandoned in a tiny, filthy cage in Canterbury and are now in private boarding.

Two days earlier, a cockerel was found straying in a garden in Poole, Dorset, after neighbours spotted it and confined it.

Inspector Tina Ward collected the bird and took it to the RSPCA West Hatch Animal Centre in Somerset.

That same day, three fancy chickens were found dumped in a box by the bins and rescued in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

They have since been rehomed and named Bradley Cooper, Hilary Fluff and Meryl Cheep.

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. 

Owners must now keep their birds indoors and must follow the Government's biosecurity advice

Owners must now keep their birds indoors and must follow the Government’s biosecurity advice

The RSPCA fears more owners will abandon their pets as the cases of bird flu rise in the country

The RSPCA fears more owners will abandon their pets as the cases of bird flu rise in the country

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.’

As the crisis intensifies and RSPCA animal rescue teams are being stretched to their limit, the charity is appealing to the public to donate to their Coronavirus Emergency Appeal.

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