People are panic-buying chicks ‘like they did toilet paper’ in coronavirus pandemic

Don Sweeney
·3 min read

Jessica Pryor of Missouri says she’d been planning to raise chickens before the coronavirus pandemic drove her to buy 11 chicks, The Missourian reported.

“If the stores close down, at least we can still feed the kids,” Pryor said, according to the publication.

And she’s not alone.

Coronavirus fears, scarce eggs and lockdown boredom are driving sales of live chickens, especially baby chicks, across the United States, The New York Times reports.

“People are panic-buying chickens like they did toilet paper,” said Tom Watkins, vice president of Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster, Iowa, according to the publication.

In Utah, the Ogden Intermountain Farmers Association store sold 1,000 chicks in one day, and a Dallas Green Farm and Home store in West Haven sold 350 chicks at a one-day sales event, the Deseret News reported.

Katy Cox, whose family has raised chickens as a hobby for four years, came to a Riverton IFA store planning to buy four chicks, but discovered long lines and sign-in sheets for buyers. She took home six new chicks — the per-customer limit, according to the publication.

“I think there is kind of a herd mentality,” Cox said, the Deseret News reported. “If one person does it then everyone does it ... it is definitely different times. People have never gone through anything like this. There was how life looked before COVID-19 and then life after COVID-19.”

Feed stores across the nation report selling out of live chicks almost as fast as they come in, The New York Times reports.

“I didn’t know I was jumping on a bandwagon,” said Erin Scheessele of Corvallis, Oregon, who bought chicks to give her two children “something to do” while they are out of school, according to the publication.

And it’s not just in the United States.

Self-isolating in the United Kingdom, actor Tom Holland of the “Spider-Man” films bought three chickens after being unable to find eggs in the supermarket, Metro reports.

Between stress-baking and stockpiling, eggs have become scarce on supermarket shelves, The Washington Post reported.

“The reality is we don’t have twice as many eggs as we did in January,” said Russell Diez-Canseco, chief executive of Vital Farms, the largest U.S. supplier of naturally raised eggs, according to the publication.

Suppliers are working on increasing their flocks, but it takes about 22 weeks for a chick to start laying eggs, The Washington Post reported.

Of course, that goes for newly purchased backyard chicks, too. Farm stores say they try to counsel new chicken owners on caring for the birds.

“I’m hoping that whoever’s buying the chickens either knows how or has a good friend to mentor them through it,” said Mary Ellen Kerr, who has raised chickens for more than 10 years, The Missourian reported.

Some fear the new owners may not be up to the challenge once coronavirus anxieties wane.

“They grow up and become stinky and gross,” Cox said in Riverton, Utah, reported the Deseret News. “There may be a day when we have wild chickens all over Riverton.”