AP

COVID cluckers: Pandemic feeds demand for backyard chickens

Dec 31, 2020, 5:44 AM
Members of the Abta family, from left, Allison, Violet, Eli, and Ariella hold hens in front of thei...
Members of the Abta family, from left, Allison, Violet, Eli, and Ariella hold hens in front of their backyard chicken run in Ross, Calif., on Dec. 15, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic is coming home to roost in America's backyards. Forced to hunker down at home, more people are setting up coops and raising their own chickens, which provide an earthy hobby, animal companionship and a steady supply of fresh eggs. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)
(AP Photo/Terry Chea)

ROSS, Calif. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic is coming home to roost in America’s backyards.

Forced to hunker down at home, more people are setting up coops and raising their own chickens, which provide an earthy hobby, animal companionship and a steady supply of fresh eggs.

Amateur chicken-keeping has been growing in popularity in recent years as people seek environmental sustainability in the food they eat. The pandemic is accelerating those trends, some breeders and poultry groups say, prompting more people to make the leap into poultry parenthood.

Businesses that sell chicks, coops and other supplies say they have seen a surge in demand since the pandemic took hold in March and health officials ordered residents to stay home.

Allison and Ron Abta of Northern California’s Marin County had for years talked about setting up a backyard coop. They took the plunge in August.

The couple’s three kids were thrilled when their parents finally agreed to buy chicks.

“These chickens are like my favorite thing, honestly,” said 12-year-old Violet, holding a dark feathered hen in her woodsy backyard. “They actually have personalities once you get to know them.”

The baby birds lived inside the family’s home for six weeks before moving into the chicken run in the yard. A wire-mesh enclosure now houses the five heritage hens — each a different breed — and protects them from bobcats, foxes and other predators.

Mark Podgwaite, a Vermont chicken breeder who heads the American Poultry Association, said he and other breeders have noticed an uptick in demand for chicks since the pandemic began. His organization, which represents breeders and poultry-show exhibitors, has seen a jump in new members.

“Without question, the resurgence in raising backyard poultry has been unbelievable over the past year,” said Podgwaite, who keeps a flock of roughly 100 birds. “It just exploded. Whether folks wanted birds just for eggs or eggs and meat, it seemed to really, really take off.”

The Abta family bought the chicks from Mill Valley Chickens, which sells chickens, feed and supplies and builds coops and runs. Owner Leslie Citroen also offers classes for first-time chicken keepers. She estimates her sales have grown 400% this year.

“Once COVID hit, my phone just started ringing off the hook and it just has not slowed down,” Citroen said. “I don’t think it’s going to slow down. I think this new interest and passion in chickens is permanent.”

Citroen said most of her customers this year are first-time chicken keepers. They range from parents looking for something to keep homebound children busy to “preppers” who want their own protein supply in case the world falls apart.

“Demand is just through the roof right now,” Citroen said. “I’ve sold all my baby chicks. I’ve sold all my juveniles. And I’m starting to sell some of my family flock.”

One of her newest customers is Ben Duddleston, who lives in nearby San Anselmo. He stopped by her home to buy three hens.

The self-described “first-time chicken dad” wanted to surprise his kids, ages 5 and 10, on Christmas.

“I think it’s totally pandemic related. I don’t think that I’d be doing this if in normal times,” Duddleston said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

quit their jobs...
PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

US added a strong 517,000 jobs in January despite Fed hikes

The Fed is aiming to achieve a "soft landing" — a pullback in the economy that is enough to tame high inflation without triggering recession.
10 hours ago
Thousands of fraudulent nursing diplomas  were dispersed in Florida. (Canva)...
Associated Press via Miami Herald

Fake nursing diploma scheme in Florida; 25 arrested

The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison.
1 day ago
Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
16 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...
SETH BORENSTEIN and CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
22 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
24 days ago
President Joe Biden pictured...
ZEKE MILLER AP White House Correspondent

DOJ reviewing potentially classified docs at Biden center

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered at the offices of the Penn Biden Center.
25 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
COVID cluckers: Pandemic feeds demand for backyard chickens