07/11/2013 04:19 EDT | Updated 09/10/2013 05:12 EDT

SPCA Montreal Seeing More Abandoned Chickens

People who work at the Montreal SPCA have been caring for homeless cats and dogs for years — now they're facing a new challenge — chickens.

Raising urban chickens for fresh eggs is a growing trend in Montreal, but the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says every week hens and roosters are being abandoned by owners unable to take care of them.

"People don't realize that chickens are sensitive, curious, smart animals that require extensive care," Alanna Devine, Director of Animal Advocacy at the Montreal SPCA told CBC's Daybreak Montreal. "Unfortunately, there is this trend of people thinking they can easily take on raising chickens in an urban environment."

Devine says people also don't realize that hens can live for up to ten years after they stop laying eggs, meaning a lengthy commitment from owners.

For the most part, it is illegal to keep chickens in the city. However, since 2011 there have been a few pilot projects in Montreal boroughs.

Devine says there has been an increase in stray chickens picked up from the street over the past 6-8 months, with a new chicken or rooster arriving at the Montreal shelter "every single week."

After the city held public consultations last summer, a report came out in support of urban agriculture but with concerns about raising chickens and small animals.

Devine says she believes legalizing chicken raising across the city would mean more strays at the SPCA. She says people willing to put effort into raising chickens should instead use that energy to research where they can buy eggs from organic chicken farms — or not eat eggs at all.

"I think it's a great idea for people to move away from industrialized agriculture. We don't want to condone people getting eggs from the grocery store from chickens that are confined in horrific conditions for their entire lives," she says.

Catherine Huard is the co-owner of Plumes et Jardins in Laval, a company that hold workshops on how to raise chickens.

She says if people are unable to look after chickens, they should not buy them in the first place.

"I think it's really deplorable," says Huard. "It's really not a good idea for people to just abandon their animals, whether it be a chicken, a cat or a dog."

However, she says that banning chickens in the city may be part of what is causing them to be abandoned.

"If it were legal, there would be less problems. [People] tend to take the animals and then if they're afraid, one of the options is to abandon them."

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