WASHINGTON — The rooster had no takers.
A dozen or so pet seekers crowded the front counter at an animal shelter in Maryland's Montgomery County on a recent Saturday. A few feet away, a woman lingered in front of a photo of Felipe the rabbit. Over in the dog kennels, a little girl pointed out a puppy to her father.
But no one asked about Hanz, the orange and white rooster that was pecking at feed in an outdoor kennel in the back. He didn't even have a name card on his cage. And unlike the schnauzer inside, he had no sign that read, "Adopt me! I'm cute!"
Animal Control picked Hanz up in mid-October in Germantown, Md. after some homeowners found him in their yard, according to Paul Hibler, deputy director of the county police's Animal Services Division.
The question of what to do with Hanz — and other roosters like him — is an unforeseen byproduct of the growth of backyard chicken flocks, which proponents tout as a more-nutritious and humane source of eggs. Recently, efforts to amend laws that prohibit chickens in densely populated areas have gained momentum. Montgomery and Virginia's Fairfax County allow residents to have chickens, with certain restrictions. And there are efforts to legalize them elsewhere in the Washington metro region, including the District of Columbia itself.
But that has meant a proliferation of unwanted roosters, many of which arrive unexpectedly from hatcheries along with the first chicks. They are difficult to keep in urban settings, they crow and many places that allow chickens ban roosters. To get rid of them, some owners turn to Craigslist, sanctuaries and animal shelters.
When that fails, the less squeamish eat them. Others set them loose and hope for the best. In the Washington region, roosters have been found wandering in parks, cemeteries and alleyways.