Self isolation brings uptick for backyard chickens - InfoNews

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Self isolation brings uptick for backyard chickens

Image Credit: Buckerfield's
March 28, 2020 - 7:00 AM

As supermarkets remain busy and liquor stores report increased sales, the coronavirus situation also appears to be encouraging people to be more self-sufficient with wait times for those wanting to buy backyard chickens stretching for weeks.

"We are mental at the moment," Buckerfield’s warehouse manager George Raye told iNFOnews.ca. "We have a lot of people ordering chicks.”

He said he'd already put in multiple orders for backyard chicks that morning, and the garden and farm products store was bustling with people.

"A lot more people may be looking towards the future and trying to be more self-sufficient," Raye said. "Unfortunately people don’t seem to be slowing down with being advised to stay at home."

Normally, those wanting to raise backyard chickens would place an order at the store, generally for about five chicks, and Buckerfield's would then order from a hatchery. It takes 21 days for a chick to hatch, so customers would have to wait before coming in and picking up their day-old birds. Currently, the higher demand means those wanting backyard chickens will have to wait until mid-May.

Wild Acres farm owner Carolyn Wild said her hatchery was overwhelmed with orders.

"The past couple of weeks the phone has been ringing off the hook," she said. "People are panicking."

The Armstrong farm owner estimates business is up almost 50 per cent over a normal spring and the farm's backlog of orders stretches until June. Wild believes most of the new business is coming from people getting into backyard chickens for the first time.

Nearby at True North Heritage Hatchery Emily Robertson tells the same story. She estimates business is up about 50 per cent.

"The interest is significantly greater, I'm especially getting a lot of contacts from people who are new to chickens," Robertson said. "I think this is, in an odd way, a side effect of COVID-19 restrictions and rules."

Robertson said she's also noticed a steep increase in customers wanting their birds vaccinated compared to other years.

While people are stuck at home with their kids, some customers are taking up keeping chickens as an interesting family project. Others are more concerned with food security, says Robertson.

At Buckerfield's, staff are hearing much the same sentiment.

"Some people (are) saying, 'I’ve got nothing better to do so I might as well try gardening', other are trying to plan so they don’t have to go to the grocery store,” Raye said.

While the hatcheries may be very busy, B.C. Chicken Marketing Board executive director Bill Vanderspek says it's business as normal for the commercial operators and coronavirus hasn't created any commercial shortages.

"In B.C. we hatch, place and process approximately two million broiler chickens every week," Vanderspek said. "We know what we're doing."

For those keen to start keeping backyard chickens, it's worth remembering a hen won't lay its first egg until it's 16 weeks old.

If you're thinking of getting into it, it's important to note that not every municipality allows backyard chickens. They are also an attractant for wildlife and some pests like rats. The B.C. SPCA has a few tips to ensure your chickens are being raised properly. We can't vouch for this, but here's a link to B.C. Living with a primer on raising backyard chickens.

Are you getting into it? Is it food security? Something to do? Let us know in the comments below why and what else you are doing in self isolation.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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