AMHERST – The manager of Shur Gain Feeds ’n’ Needs thinks chickens are fun.
“They’re friendly…,” he said Thursday.
Joe Gates was discussing egg-laying hens. Farm supply stores around the region sell the birds this time of year. Gates said he has 200 to 300 customers buying the animals.
“Those are just backyard hobby (people),” he said.
The manager has seen an increase in interest. He attributed it to food security and quality.
“They want a fresh egg and a good egg,” he said.
Grocery store eggs are old by the time they reach consumers, the manager claimed.
Egg-laying hens are an affordable way to dabble in farming, too, advised Gates. A small, inexpensive coop for three to four chickens will run about $200, and feed for the same is about $20 a month. A chicken will produce an egg almost every day, living for around four years and laying almost that entire time, beginning around 20 weeks of age, he said.
Residents of Amherst can’t keep backyard chickens, although people living in Halifax can, according to Gates.
“Should be changed,” he said of the local ban.
Keeping egg layers isn’t just about food for some customers, though.
“For sure,” said Gates when asked if he has customers who like the animals.
He described the different personalities chickens may possess. Some run over, expecting a treat.
“Some will want to go off by themselves (instead),” he said.
Chickens generally enjoy human company, according to the manager. When asked if they’d gather around a person who sat down on a lawn, he said they would.
“They’ll come over and visit.”
Layers are more expensive than eating chickens, running two dollars and change at his shop for a day-old– just under a buck more than meat kings.
“Because you’re only keeping the hens,” he said. “(Rooster chicks) go to cat food, really.”
The ordering season for his shop ends mid-July. The chickens need time to grow before winter. Gates said they can be let out during the day, then locked away from predators in their coop overnight. As for the harsh winter, “no problem” he claimed, they usually don’t need a heater.