THE RSPCA is warning of a surge in poultry being abandoned by backyard keepers who bought hens during the first lockdown but no longer wish to keep them.

Confusion over the housing order put in place because of avian influenza risk is also thought to be driving the trend.

See also: 4 key things to know about a free-range poultry housing order

The animal welfare charity said it feared rescue centres could be overrun with hens that owners have abandoned.

In 2020 it dealt with 1,594 incidents relating to chickens across England and Wales and rehomed 280 birds.

Two recent examples include 11 hens found dumped down an alleyway in Ealing, West London. Four had died.

And three hens were abandoned outside the RSPCA’s Coventry & District branch in the West Midlands.

Demand for chicks

A charity 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.”