New Brunswick

'Chick day' brings out new farmers for in-demand chickens

On “chick day” at Shur-Gain Feeds N Needs the sound of peeping is borderline deafening.

Demand for newly hatched chicks up more than 50%, according to store manager.

More than 2,500 chicks were sold as part of the latest "chick day" at Shur-Gain Feeds N Needs in Fredericton. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

On "chick day" at Shur-Gain Feeds N Needs, the sound of peeping is loud and constant.

More than 2,500 'day-old' chicks peep and cheep their cheerful chorus while awaiting pick-up by farms across the province. 

And due to COVID-19, the demand for these tiny balls of yellow and brown fluff has skyrocketed. 

"We have noticed a huge increase in chick sales for this year," said Sara Hayes, the store's manager. 

Hayes says this year they've ordered at least 50 per cent more chicks than last year.

Carboard boxes full of chicks are each labeled with the names of their new owners. 

Shur-Gain Feed N Needs says the demand for chicks has increased more than 50 per cent over last year due to the pandemic. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Some boxes have several dozen chicks, but many of them have fewer than ten. Most of those smaller containers are destined for families and backyards that have never hosted chickens before. 

"Because of COVID, everybody's home, they have time on their hands," said Hayes, over the constant peeps. "And also, people are starting to realize that we have to eat. So why not grow your own food, whether that be in the garden or growing your own meat birds." 

Sara Hayes, store manager at Shur-Gain Feeds N Needs says many of the customers this year are new, people who have never before raised chickens (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Fresh meat and fresh eggs are a big draw during the pandemic. 

Hayes says the longer it persists the more demand she expects to see in the months to come. 

"If you're in the city limits, you're only allowed three," said Hayes. "But if you're outside of Fredericton, a lot of people are going with six to ten, so they're starting out small, just to get their feet wet." 

"So, I would suspect that we're going to have increased numbers again next year if things go well this year." 

More than 2,500 chicks came into Shur-Gain Feed N Needs in Fredericton as part of the latest order for farmers, old and new, across the province. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Four chicks were the perfect number for Aric Lawrence's family. 

Like many New Brunswickers, he and his wife are trying their hand at chicken farming for the first time.

"I have a lot of friends who have been getting into chickens and everything else too, so we'd been thinking about doing it, and this year with everything going the way it is with COVID, it was time to start getting into it on our own," said Lawrence.

Food security has been top of mind for Lawrence. 

"We just started looking at what we have on our property and what kind of space we have available and what we can do," said Lawrence.

Aric Lawrence along with his wife Charmaine and their children are raising chickens for the first time as a result of COVID-19. (Submitted by Charmaine Lawrence )
After spending much of last month building a large garden, he felt ready to move on to farming protein.

"I thought it was a good idea to get some chickens because we'll be able to get some eggs out of them," said Lawrence. "We've started with four, but we might work our way up to ten."

Lawrence said getting chickens was something he and his family had previously considered. But this year the pandemic pushed them into the decision. Given the unknowns with the coronavirus, he's been preparing for the worst - and that included farming their own food.

"Now it just seemed like it was the only way to go," said Lawrence.


Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.


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