Anybody who sells chickens in the United Kingdom will tell you that there has been a huge, and perhaps even unprecedented, spike in demand for garden chickens. (They will also tell you that they have sold out of chickens!) The stockpiling, caused by Coronavirus panic buying, has led to a shortage of eggs across many supermarket shelves. The long lockdown has also led to a massive demand for things to do whilst we’re all cooped up. For many people, keeping a small flock of garden (laying hens) seems to have been the solution.
For so many reasons, I think it’s wonderful when anybody wants to keep a small (non-commercial) flock of laying hens. First, a well-loved (and well-cared for) garden hen will enjoy happy and healthy life. Much more so than any hen which supplies a supermarket.
I also think that it is better for the planet to keep chickens, for eggs, at home than it is to buy eggs from a supermarket.
What’s more, chickens are caring, clever animals. They are not at all stupid like their ‘bird brained’ reputation. In fact, chickens can be a wonderful addition to your garden and to your family. Many breeds make for eggcellent pets! (Bad pun intended!)
The ‘Coronavirus Keepers’
However, I am very concerned that many of these ‘Coronavirus keepers’ don’t have what they need to look after chickens. (Since, the outbreak began I’ve been bombarded by messages from people who don’t have the right equipment and, frankly a clue.) I can’t help but worry that many of these Coronavirus chickens are going to suffer terribly and even die.
I also expect that many chickens will be abandoned or surrendered to the already overwhelmed re-homing centres as soon as the pandemic is over, and eggs are easily available again. (Take a look at the popular online marketplaces and you’ll already see many adverts from Coronavirus keepers who’ve already given up on their chickens.)
It’s not just the buyers who are getting things wrong, many sellers are taking advantage of the crisis and are price gouging. I’ve seen countless adverts for chickens being sold far above their worth. Including some selling very old brown hybrids for more than £30 each! Normally these hens would cost £10-£12.50 at Point of Lay.
All in all, I don’t think we will know what Coronavirus will mean for chickens for many months. I hope that it will mean many more happy hens, and this is very possible as long as their keepers know what they’re doing. Luckily, with most people stuck at home this means plenty of time to do some research online and to call experienced keepers for a chat!
How We’re Helping
To help Coronavirus chickens (and their keepers), I’ve launched my ‘Introduction to Keeping Chickens’ online. I’m also offering it for only £10, so first-time keepers can talk with me to learn how to care for their chickens.