It’s been widely reported that interest in raising chickens — whether for eggs, meat or pets — seems to have grown during the pandemic that has many people spending a lot more time at home.
Farmers and businesses say Washington is no exception to the apparent trend.
“Most of our stores get one delivery of chickens a week, maybe two. At many stores, we’re selling out within an hour of opening our locations,” said Michelle Muir, the director of marketing for Country Store/Skagit Farmers Supply. “Previously, we’d see where chicks would remain a few days, even until the next order. We’re seeing a demand we haven’t seen in previous years.”
Kelly Fitzgerald, who owns Sedro-Woolley’s Willow Ridge Farm, said an interest in sustainability has boosted interest.
“Some people want to raise them for their eggs, or to be pets. Some they want to raise for meat. Chickens are versatile in that way,” she said.
Kim Mower, a longtime Skagit County dairy farmer who also raises poultry, said she’s seen interest go up in recent years. Now it’s going even higher, she said.
“This year it’s gone off the charts,” Mower said.
Mower has raised poultry of various kinds for decades. There’s much more to it than a few chicks. An initial interest can grow into a lengthy one, given enough care and research, she said.
“You keep going up a ladder. You start raising baby chicks and find out there’s so much more,” she said. “There’s one particular variety, the Phoenix. My husband and I have had them since 1978. They’re still here. There are people around the country who, for a vast majority of life, will continue to breed a particular kind of chicken.”
Sellers say people thinking about raising chickens should do plenty of research first, including ordinances where they live as well the expense and time commitment.
Matt Chaney, the president of Farm Rescue Haven in Sedro-Woolley, said he’s seen negative side effects of the boom. His recently established shelter has taken in four abandoned roosters. The only reason they haven’t taken in many more is they don’t yet have the capacity. People who buy chicks often have good intentions, but they don’t expect the expense or the work involved, or they find their purchases have turned out to be roosters when they wanted egg-laying females.
“They want to get their own chickens and raise them right,” he said. “(But) there are some real challenges. It’s a lot of work to raise birds properly. It can be expensive.”
Anacortes resident Ray Farr and his family recently started raising some. They’ve raised chickens before and decided to do so again, though not because of the pandemic.
“I grew up on ranches with my grandparents. My grandmother had chickens and different animals,” he said.
Farr said he used to name the chickens, until he named one “Sally Manelli” — after salmonella. Now, his wife names the chickens. The most recent group is Lavender, Bluebell, Goldie and Buttercup.