The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a run on chickens, causing people to ponder the age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The Columbia Missourian votes for eggs: “Panic-buying the eggs came before panic-buying the chickens this year, though people have been doing both.”
But Newsweek opts for chickens, saying, “Many Texas residents have decided the chicken does come before the egg, and it’s led to many of them buying up live chicks…”
At Cackle Hatchery customers are buying up chicks so fast, sales have doubled over previous years. “We are totally swamped and behind,” says Jeff Smith of Cackle Hatchery. “It’s a little overwhelming.”
So what’s behind this run on chickens? A review of media stories on the subject reveals these eight reasons:
1. Egg Shortages
Many consumers expecting to buy eggs at their local markets are confronted by empty shelves. As a result, they decide to stock up on chicks of the layer breeds. Yet newly hatched chicks won’t begin to lay for 5 or 6 months. An alternative to getting chicks is to acquire started pullets. They are more expensive, but they require less pampering and will start laying eggs much sooner.
2. Egg Prices
Where eggs remain available, prices are skyrocketing. In some places egg prices have tripled. Even so, some stores have begun limiting egg purchases, typically to two dozen. First-time chicken keepers are hoping to mitigate the rising cost of eggs.
3. Meat Shortages
Along with an increasing interest in layers is an increase in raising broiler chicks. As with eggs, the desire to raise broilers is often triggered by the sight of empty meat counters. Compared to the long wait for chicks to start laying eggs, broilers are ready for the freezer in a mere 6 to 8 weeks.
4. Something to Do
People who have long been intrigued by the prospect of keeping chickens now have time on their hands. Starting a flock of chickens offers something constructive to do during “stay at home” orders and helps keep kids occupied and engaged.
5. Home Schooling
With kids home from school, maintaining a flock of chickens offers a multi-disciplinary approach to home schooling. Chicken keeping provides easily understood lessons in biology, animal behavior, mathematics, and many other disciplines.
Social isolation and loneliness can cause depression. Chickens help relieve loneliness and depression. They are ideal companions. They come when you call, follow you around, and sit by you while you pursue outdoor activities. Yet they don’t require constant attention.
7. Chickens are Fun
Chickens come in a fascinating diversity of sizes, shapes, colors, and personalities. Their continual scratch-and-peck explorations, dust-splattering dirt baths, stretched-out sunbathing, and perpetual curiosity combine to provide constantly captivating entertainment.
8. Stress Reduction
During this time of uncertainty and anxiety, chickens offer a way to reduce stress. “Watching Backyard Chicken Television Is a Zen Experience,” avers blogger Jason Price. Jason’s popular Modern Farmer blog “Raising Backyard Chickens for Dummies” lists some of the ups and downs newbies can expect as they engage in the current run on chickens.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow, author, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.