Are backyard chickens still on trend? The short answer is, yes. According to a 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, over 13 million U.S. households (spread evenly in urban, suburban and rural locations) planned to have backyard chickens by 2018. Now, the trend has become so popular that coops are showing up in places like Silicon Valley, with owners spending thousands on high-tech gadgets to make certain their chickens are living their best lives as they produce eggs for the household.
Most of these backyard chicken owners have an interest in the local food movement and want to know where their food comes from. The movement is driving changes to zoning and livestock restrictions in many areas. By five years ago, nearly 93 percent of the largest American cities allowed backyard poultry. Retailers who are on top of local laws can guide clients in the right direction regarding coops, types of chickens (most allow for hens, but not roosters), storage of feed and equipment and disposal of waste.
Here are two other ways retailers can get involved with the backyard chicken trend:
Become Health & Safety Experts. Raising chickens is not risk free. Salmonella and bird flu are just two of the worst-case scenarios that can affect people who live with poultry. Most people aren’t aware that handwashing after handling chickens or eggs is vital to the prevention of disease. Chickens are also at risk. According to one study, most backyard flock owners aren’t aware of some of the exotic diseases that affect chicken health. The study cited that 61 percent of chicken owners did not vaccinate against Marek’s disease. Retailers can set themselves up as experts in urban farming and backyard poultry by leading classes or disseminating information pertaining to the health and safety of poultry and their people. The USDA’s Defend the Flock program is a great resource.
Offer Custom Coop Construction Services. One entrepreneur in the Bay Area has found success in building custom chicken coops and outdoor runs. Leslie Citroen of Mill Valley Chickens began raising and breeding chickens 10 years ago as a hobby. Now she sells specialty chickens and builds custom coops and runs for high-end tech clients looking to connect with nature after spending most of their days in virtual worlds. (Learn more about Citroen’s success here.) Coop construction services are in-line with many other services home improvement retailers offer. If chickens are popular in your area, you may want to consider this option.