HYRUM – Food insecurity and stay-at-home orders caused by the worldwide pandemic have caused a surge in backyard chicken coops in Cache Valley and across the country.
Harvesting eggs from chickens raised in the backyard can give people a sense of independence. They also know where their food is coming from and know their chickens are well taken care of. Families who own backyard chickens can give their children animal care responsibilities.
Chad Poppleton of Hyrum said his wife Amy wanted chickens for a long time and he fought her on it, but he finally gave in.
“We use eggs for just about everything; it’s been a blessing to have our own chickens,” he said. “Amy used to give eggs away to neighbors. It was her way of doing service.”
The egg farm turned into a mother-daughter enterprise for Amy and their youngest daughter Scarlet. It’s a project they could do together. They made a sign and put it in their front yard and have a good neighborhood clientele.
“We let Scarlet sell the eggs. The flock grew too big and took over our backyard, so we moved them from our backyard to the farm,” Poppleton said. “It gave them more room and, as it turned out, chickens are a lot of fun and it’s been good for Scarlet, too.”
The Poppleton family loves the taste of the eggs and some of their growing teenage boys can eat four or five a day.
“To learn about caring for chickens we searched the internet and I talked to people who have chickens,” he said. “It hasn’t been hard to do.”
Lisa and Ryan Bird, who live in the Poppleton’s neighborhood, took a page out of their book and decided to let their girls raise chickens.
“The main reason we got chickens was to eat the grasshoppers,” she said. “Last year grasshoppers were everywhere.”
She said the eggs were a good benefit from the chickens.
“We wanted to raise our girls on a farm so they could learn a good work ethic,” she said. “We don’t own a farm, but with backyard chickens they can learn skills that could benefit them and teach them how to work and take care of animals.”
She said, overall, raising chickens has been a pleasant experience, fun and almost relaxing.
During the pandemic, store shelves started to look empty and the Birds thought it would be good to have some of their own food to rely on.
“We got chicks in early spring, and they just started laying eggs last week,” she said.
They are not alone. Two more families on the same street have coops in their yard.
Jacob Hadfield, from the Utah State University extension office, said he has seen a huge increase in backyard chicken coops in the valley during 2020. It all began with COVID and quarantines. It seemed everyone was flocking to the store to go buy chickens.
“People buying chickens went crazy this year,” he said. “IFA, Tractor Supply and CAL Ranch couldn’t keep up with demand. As soon as they got them in, they were gone.”
There are certain people that like certain breeds of chickens, some for eggs and some to eat. There are also groups of folks that go back a year after and buy chicks to replace ones that have died or want to grow their flocks.
“A lot of the new buyers did research on the internet and got some information,” Hadfield said. “Most feed store employees do a good job helping people. They want to make sure the animals are well taken care of, and the buyers have a good experience.”
The biggest thing people don’t realize is that it takes from six to nine months before they start to get eggs. There are people who think they should be getting eggs sooner than that.
For questions about raising chickens, Hadfield can be reached at USU Extension at (435) 752-6263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.