Chickens in San Francisco huddle together in the corner of the coop. (Christie Hemm Klok/For The Washington Post)

The March 4 Business article “The status chickens of Silicon Valley” painted a rosy picture of pet chickens but overlooked a key fact: The recent rise in backyard-chicken numbers correlates with the rise in numbers of abandoned chickens in parks, animal shelters and roadsides.

Animal rescuers in the San Francisco Bay area and beyond can attest to the uptick in dead/distressed chickens discarded by their former caretakers. This peaks every spring, when backyard-chicken owners seek to unload the “surprise” rooster in their batch of mail-order chicks or to swap out older hens for younger models. For these birds, there is no happy ending; animal sanctuaries are stretched beyond capacity and the numbers of chickens euthanized in shelters is on track to rival those of dogs and cats.

In fact, there are entire parks in San Jose populated by abandoned pet chickens. Once they are let loose with no food, shelter or protection from predators, these former pets perish within weeks, if not days.

Viewing backyard chickens as a hobby that can be taken up or discarded on a whim does a great disservice to the birds as well as the local rescue groups that take on the thankless task of cleaning up after irresponsible owners. Pets are a lifetime responsibility.

Ariana Huemer, Felton, Calif.

The writer is director of Hen Harbor,
an animal sanctuary in California.