British Columbia

Worries about food shortages have people scratching for information on backyard chickens

Mary Ellen Dalgleish, a poultry expert at Purity Feeds in Kamloops, B.C., believes the increased interest in backyard chickens follows concerns about food security when consumers saw grocery store shelves cleared out early in the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C.

Poulty expert warns that laying hens require lots of time and attention

A steady supply of eggs is the main reason people turn to backyard chickens. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Since people started staying home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mary Ellen Dalgleish has noticed an uptick in the number of people seeking advice and supplies for backyard laying hens. 

Dalgleish, a poultry expert at Purity Feeds in the southern Interior city of Kamloops, B.C., believes the increase is because of concerns about potential food shortages, after some grocery store shelves were cleared out early in the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C.

"Some of them have a farming background but many of them are new and a small-scale farm family sort of thing. And they're wanting to have a few birds to supply the family with some eggs," she told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. 

Additionally, Ron and Marie  McGivern, owners of a chicken rental service in B.C.'s Interior, said in a media release that they have seen an increase in reservations from people cancelling summer travel, who now have the time to care for the birds. They offer birds, feed, a portable coop and instructions delivered to the doorstep. 

While it may sound like a great idea, Dalgleish is reminding people that chickens require a lot of time and attention. 

"They've got to have fresh water, they've got to have fresh food," she said. "In the wintertime they have to have heat, in the summertime they're outside a lot more but they still have to have a place to roost and a dry place so that they can get out of the rain and the elements."

Not only that, but different municipalities have different bylaws when it comes to keeping chickens in urban spaces. In Kamloops, for example, hen owners need a fenced backyard and a regulation coop on a single-family or duplex lot that is at least 370 square metres in size. Residents are also allowed minimum two hens, maximum five, and no roosters. 

Raising chickens can be hugely beneficial, especially for children, Dalgleish said. 

"A few of them that have had little egg businesses, which was really neat to see, where they were supplying the neighbours with eggs as well."

Dalgleish is hopeful the interest in raising backyard chickens will continue after the pandemic, because she thinks it's made people more aware of where there food comes from. 

"I was raised on a farm myself so we had our own chickens and we always had a good supply of eggs," she said. "So it was always an extra meal protein which is very important all the way around, and you know what you're putting into it. There's different feeds, you can buy non-GMO based feeds and then grain-based feeds and so you know what you're feeding yourself."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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