Texans Begin Hoarding Chickens During Coronavirus Pandemic

Many Texas residents have decided the chicken does come before the egg, and it's led to many of them buying up live chicks during the COVID-19 outbreak, also known as the coronavirus pandemic.

Folks in the San Antonio area have decided that the best way around an egg shortage at local grocery stores is to buy their own chicks. So as toilet paper and hand sanitizers fly off the shelves in typical retail stores, chickens are leaving the coop at feed stores and other businesses in San Antonio that deal with agriculture.

Cathy Sullivan from Strutty's Feed and Pet Supply in nearby Spring Branch, Texas, said shipments of chickens are gone almost as soon as they are shipped there.

"When we get them in, it's been a mad dash for the chickens," Sullivan told the San Antonio Express-News. "We've had shipments of 300 to 350 per week, and everything is getting sold."

Just outside of the San Antonio city limits is a business called Cluckingham Palace, where Christie Quintanilla hatches and raises chicks to sell. She estimates between 80 to 200 new chicks hatch every week, and folks wanting to buy from here want more than she can handle. Though the spring time is already her peak time of selling chicks in a year, the demand has now led to a long waiting list up to four weeks.

"Some people were looking for 100 at a time, and one even asked for 150 ... that took us by surprise," Quintanilla said. "We had to turn them down. Ten is our limit, but most of our customers have been reasonable and are asking for four or five at a time."

A report in the Washington Post last month tracked down a hatchery in Missouri called the Cackle Hatchery, which usually hatches about 250,000 chicks a week, and even their sales have increased by at least 100 percent.

Just because someone buys hicks does not mean they will get instant eggs to get them through the next few months of the pandemic, as it usually takes maybe five or six months before newborn chicks can begin hatching farm-fresh eggs. Once they begin hatching, the hens can lay anywhere from 200 to 250 eggs per year.

A new pack of 18 extra-large eggs purchased on April 5, 2020, from a Publix supermarket in Florida. Scott McDonald/Newsweek

With the uncertainty on how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, or how much the shutdown will affect grocery shelves, it could be a good learning experience for someone wanting to create their own food.

It's "if and when" the pandemic ends that has hatchery workers concerned, but hoping the chicks will be taken care of when the COVID-19 shutdown ends.

"It's an exciting time to see the backyard industry grow, but it's also a concerning time," Quintanilla said. "My hope is that all of these people buying chicks and chickens will stay loyal to them, because the chick buyers aren't going to see any eggs until at least late August or September, and the health climate is going to be different then ... I hope."