A recent nationwide development amid the circumstances of the coronavirus (COVID-19) fallout has been a staggering increase in demand for live chickens due to nationwide shortages in meat and dairy products.

A recent article in The Washington Post says that people are now raising chickens in their own backyards to supplement increasing egg costs and shortages in local supermarkets. A recent article by USA Today states that in certain states (particularly northeastern states suffering the hardest from the coronavirus crisis), “Regionwide, egg retailers’ orders from wholesalers have increased by anywhere from double to 600 percent.”

These large increases in orders are indicative of a market-wide shortage of meat and dairy products, thereby raising prices and leaving shelves in supermarkets empty. 

These circumstances have encouraged some people, including residents across the greater Houston area, to purchase chickens and raise them in their backyard to combat these market shortages. Town and Country Feed, located at 102 Railroad Ave. in Humble, has recently seen an increase in customers, likely corresponding to this unlikely phenomenon. 

Big Tex Feed Hardware and Pet Supply, a seller of live fowl and feed located at 7102 Cullen Blvd. in Houston, has seen “an increase in customers coming in, specifically to purchase chickens in the recent weeks.” The increase in customer activity in these local businesses suggests that consumer trends in the Houston area are indeed corresponding with national trends. 

For those interested in raising chickens for themselves, many are able to do so, depending on their place of residence. The City of Houston’s regulations pertaining to the residential raising of chickens are a little vague. Houston city code stipulates that “no more than 30 chickens … shall be kept upon any lot or enclosure of the size of 65 by 125 feet or less.” The city code also states that “It is unlawful for any person to keep, possess or maintain in the city any chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, peafowls or any other bird or fowl … [that is within 100 feet of another residence, school, church or hospital],” and that “it shall be lawful for any person who has obtained a permit from the director to keep, possess and maintain no more than seven chicken hens for the purpose of providing the person with fresh unfertilized eggs.”

The City of Houston requires a permit in order to house hens for the purposes of accumulating fresh eggs and requires that all live fowl be housed in sanitary conditions. If someone is interested in raising chickens within Houston city limits, they must fulfill the 100-foot distance requirement and the enclosed structure must be in line with the city’s building code. 

For residents of unincorporated Harris County, the restrictions are less severe. Harris County prohibits the “sale of live animals on public highways, roads and parking lots,” but it does not prohibit the sanitary housing of live fowl. If someone is interested in raising chickens on their private property, they should review local guidelines before purchasing them.  

Baby chicks are not expensive. A recent search online found 10 Hoover’s Hatchery Cornish Cross Broiler baby chickens for less than $25 at Tractor Supply in Porter while 10 Rhode Island Reds are $35. Forty pounds of chicken feed is $9.

According to Cornucopia, “Caring for backyard chickens is relatively easy. As long as they have access to clean water, food, shade and shelter, they’ll go about their business without much fuss. The rewards of caring for your own feathered flock are many, and you may find yourself bonding with your birds as you would with any other pet. Their insatiable curiosity and amusing social habits are always entertaining. Besides all their bug-eating and egg-laying benefits, chickens are just plain fun to have around.“

Happy clucking!

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