The COVID-19 pandemic has caused plenty of panic-buying of products, from toilet paper to disinfectant wipes to bread.
But there’s one thing that I didn’t see coming: people have been panic-buying chickens.
Yes, I’m talking about real, live chickens — as in, those domestic feathered birds that scratch around and lay eggs.
In fact, some suppliers of live chicks, coops, and feed have seen sales jump by more than 500 percent. Hatcheries nationwide are reporting big spikes in orders as they scramble to keep up with demand.
So, what gives?
Backyard chickens are definitely having a moment right now, and it looks like there are two big factors playing into it.
For starters, the idea of keeping backyard chickens as pets was already on the rise in recent years. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had increasingly more friends start building coops in their backyards, even in very urban environments.
Sales of of chickens and chicken-related products have been growing steadily in the past few years, and even favorite online retailers like Amazon offer plenty of prefab chicken coops.
It’s fueled in part by interest in environmental sustainability. Families also see it as an opportunity to teach kids about animals and where food comes from.
Now, with everyone staying home during the pandemic, all those folks who dreamed of having their very own pet chickens are realizing they finally have the extra time to make those dreams into reality. The pandemic isn’t really the reason, so much as it is a catalyst.
This mirrors the jump in cat and dog adoptions during the pandemic, too. As people realize they’re going to be stuck at home with plenty of extra time, they’re introducing new companions into their homes — much to the delight of kids all around the nation.
But of course, chickens have one big advantage over dogs, cats, and other more traditional pets: they lay eggs.
That ability is what has played a huge role in the pandemic chicken panic-buying.
During times of uncertainty, people always look for ways to boost their self-reliance. It might be gardening, it could be learning to bake bread… or in this case, raising chickens.
As soon as the U.S. started seeing nationwide lockdowns and experts warned of disruptions to the food chain, people started panicking about food. Remember all those images of barren grocery store shelves, empty meat sections, and sparse freezer aisles?
“This has to do with the perceived hoarding that is going on,” said Bud Wood, owner of McMurray’s Hatchery in Iowa. “People are afraid they won’t be able to buy eggs and chickens in the grocery store, and they don’t want to have to go to the store and possibly be infected.”
Of course, raising backyard chickens is a big investment of time and money. Chickens haven’t exactly been the most common pet leading up until now. There’s certainly a bigger learning curve than you’d find when bringing home a cute little kitten.
However, it can be a very rewarding hobby. And at least for my friends, chickens have become unique and lovable companions.
Plus, new feathered friends can provide a fun educational opportunity for kids, who are finding themselves antsy while home from school.
If you’re thinking of adding feathered fowl friends to your roost (see what I did there?!), it’s important to check your local laws concerning the birds. It all depends on state, county, and town regulations.
Not everywhere allows them to roam freely in backyards. There might be limits on the number of chickens you can have.