Will Corona Virus Hurt Backyard Chicken Keeping?
Many of us have experienced difficulty buying everyday items in the grocery store as a result of Coronavirus pandemic. Items such as toilet paper, canned goods, and pasta have been in short supply. In some areas, it’s also been difficult to get fresh eggs and this has created a surge in demand for baby chicks as homeowners look for alternative ways of getting staples – including buying chicks to produce eggs at home. According to CBS News, some retail chains are reporting a 30% increase in sales of baby chicks and some stores are limiting customer purchases to a specific number of chicks to cope with the demand.
While we at ChickenWaterer.com are here to support new owners with educational articles and advice, we have real concerns about novices acquiring birds first and asking questions later. Our greatest fear is that many of these chicks will end up at shelter facilities or, worse still, mistreated as owners who lose interest as soon as fears about the pandemic begins to wane.
Here are a few things novice owners may not understand:
- They won’t be laying anytime soon –While baby chicks grow up very quickly they don’t begin laying until months after they are born. Hybrid egg laying breeds will lay their first eggs when they are approximately 4 months old. Heritage laying breeds at 5 months old, and dual purpose heritage breeds will lay when they are aged 5-8 months depending on the breed.
- You may have overbought – 12 chickens may not sound like many, but a flock of that size can produce a dozen eggs a day. That’s more than most families can consume if there is no real shortage of food.
- You may not be buying the right breed – Like dog breeds, chicken breeds can vary widely in their suitability for your family – level of docileness, level of broodiness, their ability to tolerate hot and/or cold weather etc. Buying chickens without understanding these differences can lead to a mismatch. The worst mismatch would be to buy the “pretty” chickens and then discover they aren’t very good egg layers (the reason you bought chicken’s in the first place)
- Local ordinances – unless you live in a rural community, it’s likely your town has some restrictions on the number of chickens that you can be own and where a coop can be set up relative to the property line.
- Straight what? - Many new owners may not realize that chickens can be sold sexed or in a straight run. Some new owners may be wake up one morning to find that their flock contains some cockerels. The neighbors won’t be pleased either.
- Predators – Even suburban locations have populations of predators that can pose a serious threat to chickens including: raccoons, skunks, hawks, snakes, possums and even your neighbor’s dog or cat. All will kill chickens given the chance. Chickens need to be sheltered from such predators.
- Chicken’s require work – Chickens are less labor intensive than other pets, but that doesn’t mean there’s no work involved in ownership. Chickens need to be fed and watered daily, eggs need to be collected and the coop needs to be kept clean. They also can live for 5 years or more. Buying chickens is a long-term commitment to caring for animals.
What You Can Do To Help
- If someone you know is considering getting chickens, help them understand all of the above issues and/or point them to the ChickenWaterer Blog for more information.
- Leave room in your coop – If you are thinking about adding to your flock this year, you may want to wait a bit. There are going to be many owners that underestimated the work involved or who simply lose interest in a few months. These chickens are going to need a home and it may be best if an experienced owner takes the reins.