It’s a trend that’s been embraced by country-dwellers and city folk alike, as well as celebrities including Jamie Oliver and Amanda Holden.
But the growing ownership of ‘posh chickens’, which fetch between £40 and £200 per animal, has made them a prime target for thieves, according to leading rural insurer NFU Mutual.
Over the last five years we have seen the prices for rare breed poultry rise dramatically and so too has the frequency of thefts.Philippe Wilson, Vice-Chairman of the Rare Poultry Society
It has identified a growing trend for the theft of pet chickens and coops as part of its annual monitoring and analysis of rural crime.
Although the number of insurance claims for stolen chickens is low, NFU Mutual says anecdotal evidence from its network of more than 300 offices suggests that the number of thefts is increasing and that many go unreported.
In Huddersfield, it was reported in May that allotment owners had hundreds of pounds worth of birds stolen over the course of several months, with thieves also breaking into sheds to steal chicken feed.
And in October, between 10 and 14 chickens were stolen from a house in Great Ouseburn, north of York. The chickens, all hens of the pekin breed, were taken from a hen coop on private land.
Victoria Walton, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Keeping chickens has become a much loved hobby by town and country folk alike, but a rise in popularity amongst a new breed of ‘hen hipsters’, including celebrity farmers, has lead to an increased demand for rare breed ‘posh chickens’ and created a lucrative luxury poultry market.
“Burmese Bantams, Polish Frizzles and Silkies with their cute and cuddly appearance, have now become prime targets for thieves - fetching between £40 and £200 per hen.
“And to add to the attraction, the luxury hen houses they live in are easily portable and worth hundreds of pounds.”
Philippe Wilson, Vice-Chairman of the Rare Poultry Society added: “Over the last five years we have seen the prices for rare breed poultry rise dramatically and so too has the frequency of thefts.
“Thieves are clued up on which birds to target and how much they are worth either for resale or breeding purposes. We have seen people selling fertile hatching eggs of the extremely rare, and all black, Ayam Cemani for over £1,000.”
NFU Mutual is advising owners of pet chickens to increase their levels of garden security to reduce the risk of theft. This includes keeping garden gates locked and boundaries secure.