BURBANK, Calif. — After Will Armstrong had a hard time finding eggs at his grocery store during the pandemic, he decided to cut out the middle man and buy himself many fuzzy little chickens.
"When the pandemic started and everyone started hoarding paper towels and pulling things off the shelf, it got really scary. So I started thinking, 'How can I be more self-sufficient? What are some little things that I can do?'" Armstrong said.
A publicist from Burbank, Armstrong knew nothing about raising birds. So, he went online and researched the topic.
First, he got Trixie, a New Hampshire red hen, then came Clover, a Rhode Island red hen, and finally three tiny little chicks, which he named Ruth Bader Ginsbird, Nancy Poulotry, and Al-egg-sandria Ocasio Cortez.
The trend has been incubating for years, but since COVID-19, hatcheries and feed stores across the country have been scrambling to meet a dramatic increase in demand. My Pet Chicken, a national retail site based in Connecticut, told Spectrum News 1 it had seen a 400 percent increase in sales since March.
Burbank allows up to 25 chickens per household. The cost is relatively cheap — about $10 - $15 per bird and about $250 for its coop.
"It's definitely more expensive than paying for them at a grocery store," Armstrong said. "But knowing how healthy these eggs will be and exactly what goes into them, I feel like I'm investing in my own health."
Hens begin laying at around six months of age and can continue for five to 10 years. Armstrong expects he'll have more eggs than he can handle.
"When I got the chickens, I got them because I wanted eggs," he said. "I didn't realize that I'd be so fond of them."
But perhaps the most unexpected perk has nothing to do with eggs or COVID-19.
"What I do can be kind of high-stress, and doing it in this environment is kind of amazing," Armstrong said. "It puts everything into perspective."