Backyard hens still in high demand amid New Brunswick's third COVID-19 spring
Suppliers have struggled to keep up with the demand
In the third spring of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Brunswickers desire for backyard hens shows no signs of waning.
"The demand is still very high," said Jane MacKinnon, the head clerk at Fredericton's Co-op Country Store. "People haven't stopped buying even though COVID is supposedly over, which it isn't, but people are, because of the price of food and everything, people are still buying lots."
In 2020, demand for day-old chicks shot up around 50 per cent. MacKinnon said it's stayed there ever since.
"The first year it was crazy," said MacKinnon. "There was just so many people wanting birds and we just couldn't get them."
When the pandemic first hit, demand for hens went up as people sought food security in a time of uncertainty.
The spring of 2021 still saw many people cooped up on their own properties. Homesteading and backyard activities like gardening took off, along with the popularity of backyard hens.
MacKinnon said chicken farmers have responded by raising more chicks each year to try and meet demand.
The spike in demand for backyard hens coincides with the loosening of restrictions in the city of Fredericton.
"The keeping of hens is now a permitted use and the public do not require permission or permits from the City as long as they meet the standards set out in the bylaw," wrote city spokesperson Shasta Stairs in an email to CBC News.
The city used to require a $250 site survey before giving permission to keep hens.
Bylaws now require a maximum of three hens be kept in an enclosed coop connected to a chicken run that is not visible by neighbours or public streets. Roosters aren't allowed.
MacKinnon urges new hen farmers to keep their birds indoors to prevent them from contracting the avian flu, which is present in New Brunswick.
"If you're getting birds keep them inside," said MacKinnon. "I know it sounds mean and everything, but keep them inside."
MacKinnon said chickens require 365 days of care a year, like any animal.
She said getting too many of them is a common mistake for first-time farmers.
"We're getting quite a few 'home people' that are getting like six or a dozen egg layers," said MacKinnon. "Well, if you get 12 egg layers and you get them raised up and ready, you're going to get 12 eggs a day. That's a lot of eggs if you're not a big family."