Chickens join the list of 'shelter-in-place' must-haves

Apr 30, 2020

Like flour, yeast, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, all over the country there's been a run on chicks, wrote Diana Williams in a article published by the Sacramento Bee. The author and her family adopted four chicks, and as they grew, so did her thirst for information on raising chickens at home. 

"Imagine my delight in stumbling across a backyard chicken census online," Williams wrote.

The website, managed by UC Cooperative Extension epidemiology specialist and veterinarian Maurice Pitesky, offers myriad resources for California residents who have backyard chickens or are considering buying them, including a downloadable 44-page family-friendly workbook with critical information, crafts and activities.

Pitesky said there are about 100,000 backyard flocks in California. Sacramento probably has about 11 percent of them, making it the third-highest backyard chicken region in the state, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Raising backyard chickens seems to be another somewhat senseless hoarding practice taking place during the COVID-19 crisis. Williams admitted that, "this isn't exactly logical if you consider it's about half a year until chicks lay eggs." She speculated that a search for meaning, purpose and connectedness during COVID-19 uncertainty is another driver of chicken adoption, along with suddenly having more time at home.

"So the prospect of being able to have new life inside our house – life that's warm, fuzzy and unfolding in a new way every day – that seemed more than inviting. It felt essential," Williams wrote.

Industry producers are concerned about the trend.

“We don't like all these people getting into backyard birds,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. “People start out trying to grow their own eggs and find out it's not so much fun. Instead of trying to get rid of them properly, people turn them loose and they develop a disease. That's what scares the commercial industry.”



By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist