Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Roosters are a great companion to keep hens happy and healthy, and they can be pretty friendly with humans too, so it can be heartbreaking to discover that you can't keep them in your flock. There are fussy neighbors to contend with, confusing and changing city regulations, unexpected moves to a home or city that doesn’t allow for chickens as pets, unknown allergies to pet chickens or eggs, aggressive roosters and hens, chickens that need specialized medical treatment, and more.
It's a hard phone call to answer because we know that chicken keepers, especially youngsters, have formed wonderful bonds with their new pets. The time and care put into raising the chicks into a companion is forfeit, most often because of city regulations regarding roosters. Dare 2 Dream Farms does not rescue roosters or other chickens that weren't originally purchased from this farm originally; in short, because the farm must maintain a bio-security system put in place to protect the chickens for sale and the homes they're sold to.
It seems a hopeless task to find a home willing to take in a rooster or old laying hens. But we've got some great avenues for you to pursue to make sure you find the perfect forever-home for Henrietta, now aptly re-named Henry.
Loving chickens can find forever homes in a lot of great places, where their egg production isn't the primary purpose for being kept. Homes in rural areas may lose wonderful pet roosters that actively protect their free-range laying flock against predators, and may be in need of a replacement rooster who will be chivalrous to the hens, and good with the kids. Chickens are also beginning to provide therapy alongside other farm animals for anxiety and other conditions. Calm and well-behaved chickens are used by animal specialists who provide trained animals for filming. Hobby farms, or petting zoos may be searching for sweet chickens that are especially good with young children who visit them. They may even be accepted as a donation to a local orchard or organic farm who needs additional pest and weed control.
Advertising chickens through listing services like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Letgo can be successful, but spend the extra time to make the listing enticing. Give your chickens their own story, or personality, and post beautiful, fun, or loving photos of them. In the advertisement, remember to share why you think they are so special. For example: they greet you every morning, they're particularly sweet with your kids, they love to be held, they're excellent foragers, they're a rare breed, or they're still good egg layers. Next, consider giving them monetary value. Selling a chicken for $10 or $15 gives the impression that they have value as egg layers, breeding stock, or simply as wonderful pets, and potential forever homes will value that too. "Free to a good home" may convey that you're desperate to get rid of them for an undisclosed reason. Plus, anyone looking to fill a soup pot won't spring for a $10 chicken. Also, remember that backyard chicken breeds are bred for their feathering, egg production, and to maintain heritage breeding lines. They're not useful for cockfighting, so you can rest assured they won't be abused.
To The Rescue
If you're not successful in finding a private forever home for your chickens before your deadline, non-profit organizations exist whose primary function is to rescue, care for, and re-home chickens and other farm animals. We've made a listing of animal rescues in California that may help you get started. To find other places near you, search local listings for "chicken rescue," "rooster rescue," or "farm animal sanctuary." Be sure to call the organization to be sure they have openings for your animals, and schedule a time to drop them off so they can be properly cared for upon arriving.
Please Don't Dump
Dropping off chickens on private or public property without permission is illegal. Cities like Arroyo Grande and Fair Oaks in California have fluctuating populations of city chickens, unwanted and dumped roosters and hens that roam the streets and roost in the trees near city halls. Somehow they seem to be fed and find a place to sleep at night, but it doesn't mean that they don't also catch the eye of resident raccoons or stray cats looking for lunch, and cause someone the headache of scraping bird poop off of park benches and sidewalks. Dumping animals is illegal, whether it occurs in underpopulated wooded areas, or in the middle of a downtown area; and chickens cannot be expected to survive on their own foraging skills alone after being provided for. While we're being forthcoming about survival, it should also be noted that animal shelters are not the ideal place for leaving your chickens. Shelters usually don't have much space for fowl, and chickens there have a low chance of rescue and a high chance of being euthanized.
Finders > Keepers
Lastly, if you find they hold a place in your heart, you might find a way to keep your chickens. Chickens that are no longer high production layers still provide excellent companionship, organic weed and pest control, and entertainment. Many homes feed dogs and cats who eat far more in food, and never lay an egg. Chickens have started to prove to the world that they have value as companions alongside traditional house pets. Roosters, although they don't lay eggs, can also provide value to the health of your flock (more on that here). If your main concern is their noise, there are creative ways to help control the sound of roosters: no-crow collars and insulated soundproof boxes have been created to limit the sound of a rooster until late enough in the morning that it no longer disturbs the neighbors. Some chicken keepers in love with their roos have simply moved roosters into the garage, spare bathroom, or dog crate in the house at night to muffle the sound of the morning crowing. Neighborly love for your bawking chickens could also be bought with occasional gifts of a half dozen fresh backyard chicken eggs with a cute stamp. An invitation to meet the flock can't hurt either, so they can see just how much personality their tiny feathered neighbors have. If you're lucky, a new bond between your neighbors and your chickens may also mean that you have an offer for a chicken sitter during your next out of town adventure.