As the country faces economic uncertainty and record high egg prices, Americans are flocking to backyard chickens to secure their own supply of this food staple. Manna Pro City Yolks surveyed its online community of backyard chicken owners and enthusiasts and found that more than half (52%) of respondents who aren’t currently chicken owners are considering backyard chickens. Among the factors impacting this decision, 85% noted it is to have a source of eggs, with 58% stating it is directly due to the high price of eggs.
“As mindsets have shifted over the last decade–and as seen during the pandemic and now with the rapid inflation of eggs–more families are trying to figure out how to create sustainability in their own backyards,” said Amanda Terbrock, poultry expert at Manna Pro and founder of the backyard chicken community City Yolks. “People are becoming increasingly concerned about where their food comes from, and they have the desire to be more self-sufficient and reduce their environmental impact–especially those living in urban and suburban areas.”
Roughly 10.6 million U.S. households already own backyard chickens, a 6% increase in just two years. The recent spike in demand for backyard chickens due largely to high grocery prices has hatcheries nationwide receiving significant call volume inquiring about chicks, selling them at rates even faster than during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Manna Pro, a category leader in poultry products, started noticing considerable upticks in traffic and sales for chicken products beginning mid-January 2023, with sales of its egg incubator up 569% from this same time last year.
However, rushing into this hobby without the proper research and planning is like a chicken with its head cut off. In the same City Yolks survey, almost half (42%) of current backyard chicken owners said they wish they had been more educated before getting started.
For those considering transforming their backyards into urban barnyards, City Yolks shares the top five things everyone should know before getting started with backyard chickens:
1. Know the local laws: Especially if you live within city limits, check local ordinances regarding backyard chickens. For example, many cities allow hens but not roosters, limit the number of chickens you are permitted to raise, etc.
2. Know your breeds: Spend time researching beginner chicken breedsthat best fit your needs. Consider how many eggs you’d like, your climate, and how much space you have.
3. Know how much it will cost: Think through how much chickens might cost you at the beginning and throughout their lifespans. In addition to chicks, startup costs include the materials to build or buy and furnish a coop, proper fencing to protect the chickens, and ongoing costs like feed, treats, toys, and coop upkeep.
4. Know how much space you need: Chicks grow big quickly, so you should have your coop set up before you even buy your chicks. The coop should be big enough for each chick to have 3-5 square feet of space, plus roosting boxes, water containers, and feeders. Chickens also need about 8-10 square feet of free run space per bird.
5. Know the commitment: Like any pet, it’s important to know the day-to-day commitment of being a responsible chicken owner. Healthy eggs require healthy chickens, which means proper nutrition and fresh water each day, treats, a clean coop, safety from animal predators, space and time to roam, etc. Make sure you’re willing to put in the work before making the purchase.
“The joy of raising chickens, be it for food security, environmental impact, or just fun and companionship, is well worth it once you get into it,” said Terbrock. “The City Yolks community was created to champion people on their backyard chicken journey and to be the first place they go for advice, encouragement, or a laugh. We’re dedicated to being the No. 1 resource for urban and suburban chicken owners and we provide how-to guides via our YolkTube YouTube Channel for raising backyard chickens.”
For those making the leap into the backyard chicken journey, City Yolks also shares the top five tips to keep chicks happy and healthy for the best eggs:
Age of Egg-lightenment
1. Maintain a proper coop: Keep your chicken coop well-ventilated, draft-free and dry. It should include nest boxes for each hen to lay eggs and a roosting area for chickens to sleep. A clean and dry coop prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and supports your chickens’ respiratory health.
2. Manage broody hen behavior: A hen’s natural inclination to sit or “brood” on fertile eggs until they hatch can be detrimental to the hen that broods on infertile eggs or an empty nest. It’s important for the hen’s health to stop the brooding behavior on empty nests and infertile eggs as the hen will brood indefinitely.
3. Provide a location for dust baths: If you see your chickens digging a shallow hole and creating a mess with dirt, they are dust bathing. These dust baths help chickens sustain healthy skin and feathers by protecting them from parasites and other creatures that can live inside their feathers.
4. Keep enough chickens: Chickens are social and want company. Plan to always keep at least three chickens; though if you have the space and it’s permitted by local ordinances, half a dozen chickens is a great amount.
5. Choose feed with ideal nutrition for your flock’s life stages: A growing chick has different nutritional needs than a laying hen, for example. There is no “one size feeds all” that’s adequate nutrition for every life stage. Consult with a poultry nutritionist, veterinarian, or expert at your local feed store for assistance on optimal nutrition.
To see what all the squawk is about with City Yolks, follow @CityYolks on Instagram and Facebook. Those interested in backyard chickens or current chicken owners can view video guides and subscribe to the YolkTube by City Yolks channel on YouTube.