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  • Writer's pictureTopsail Times

What The Egg Is Going On?

The great egg shortage of 2023 has led to skyrocketing prices and a scarcity of products. Bird flu is being blamed. If detected in a commercial chicken farm, all birds must be destroyed. That could mean thousands to millions of birds will never produce eggs or meat. Since the beginning of 2022, over 52 million birds (wild and farmed) have died or been destroyed due to Avian influenza. To date most of the farmers impacted have been in the Northwestern and Midwest States. Is the bird flu new? No, it was first detected in Italy in the late 1800’s where it was referred to as a plague (fowl). The avian flu is a virus that seems to run on a cycle every few years.

The avian flu of 2014-2015 took the lives of over 50 million birds. That flu was caused by farm-to-farm transmission where the current flu is associated with infections from wild birds to domestic.

The current version of the flu affects the egg laying birds more than the birds raised for meat. Turkeys are the exception to the rule since they are being affected at a high rate.

Shortages in products and food items is nothing new since the Covid-19 pandemic, but eggs are an item that a small backyard farmer can provide for themselves and their families.

Several area towns and communities have updated their “chicken” policies to allow families to have hens as a backyard addition. If allowed, the rule of thumb is 3 hens to every 2 adults. This will provide eggs and if desired, meat. Baby chicks are cute and fuzzy but grown chickens are full of personality. Bantam chickens are much smaller than a standard hen and are available in lots of colors and feather configurations. Easter egger hens may lay green or blue colored eggs. Local feed and hardware stores will begin getting baby chickens, heat lamps, feed and supplies in stock in the next few weeks. Several stores have a minimum number to purchase to deter the person who wants “one chick because it’s cute”. Baby chicks must be kept warm and dry and out of reach of other animals, including household pets (like dogs) that tend to find them a bite sized snack or play toy. When the birds are old enough to go outdoors, make sure you have an enclosed pen with weatherproof housing to stay in at night and to get out of the weather. Fencing is key and needs to include the ground of their pen to avoid digging predators such as fox and dogs. A top on the pen will prevent racoons, possums and large birds from stealing your livestock.

Not a fan of chickens but still love eggs? Ducks are a wonderful egg laying bird and unlike a chicken egg, a duck egg may have multiple yokes, which is great for cooking. Ducks will require the same type of contained pen but will also require large amounts of water – such as a kiddie pool. Ducks are messy and love to filter dirt in the water so constant upkeep of clean water is necessary.

Helping yourself or your family to be more self-sufficient is always a good thing. Local farm groups have flock swaps and exchanges and can offer lots of information for the person just starting out. Check with your local zoning regulations before making purchases and don’t be afraid to research the breed or variety you would like to raise. Live in an HOA? How about suggesting a community chicken coop and garden. Chickens are wonderful at getting rid of pests and insects. This is also a great way to teach children about responsibility and chores.


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