Coronavirus: Lockdown rush for hens prompts supply concern

Angela Humphries and Ivory, a white hen Image copyright Angela Humphries
Image caption Angela Humphries believes her hens have been good for her mental health

Angela Humphries always wanted to raise chickens. When the lockdown began she felt this was the right time to go for it.

She's not the only one.

Raising chickens has become so popular during the lockdown that there are now waiting lists for hens and chicken coops.

Some chicken suppliers worry they won't be able to meet demand over the next few months.

Over at Pencwarre Poultry, near Cardigan, there was a massive rush for laying hens just ahead of the lockdown.

"It was nothing to see 10 cars in the yard at the same time when there was talk of a lockdown," said Lisa Thomas at the farm.

"I was here by myself, pregnant, and holding the chicken. It was like Tesco, with me saying, 'Who's next?!"

Image copyright Pencwarre Poultry
Image caption Lisa Thomas had to deal with huge demand for hens at Pencwarre Poultry

The farm not only sold out of "point of lay" hens but ducks and guinea fowl too.

"There'll be a definite shortage. We have sold all our ducks and guinea fowl because of this," Lisa added.

"People are willing to take anything to get eggs at the moment. For three weeks, I was rushed off my feet."

Lisa believes there are difficulties with the usual process of importing birds because of the lockdown restrictions.

All the hens raised at Pencwarre Poultry have been sold ahead for every month up until August. It's all done through a contactless system.

Image copyright Pencwarre Poultry
Image caption All these hens at Pencwarre Poultry have been ordered

Gwilym Ephraim has been selling hens from his farm in Llanffestiniog in Gwynedd for decades but says there has been a huge rise in demand over the past few weeks.

"It's easier to find gold than hens at the moment," he said.

Gwilym believes the egg shortage at the supermarkets recently may have had an impact.

"If you get your own eggs, you know what you're getting," he said.

"And people don't have anything else to do, do they?"

Image copyright Angela Humphries
Image caption Ivory, Speckly, and Ebony - Angela's new hens pecking at the window

Angela Humphries moved back to Wales after 30 years in Bath, and did try keeping hens a year ago, until a fox killed them all after just a few weeks.

Six weeks into lockdown at her home near Crymych, Pembrokeshire, she's glad she decided to give chicken-rearing another go.

"A chicken gives more than just eggs" said Angela.

"They're really good company and good for your mental health. Especially now.

"It's been a good focus and a distraction from everything that's been going on and not being able to see our loved ones. They have become very special to us."

She has named her three hens Ivory, Ebony and Speckly and now keeps them in a coop closer to her house.

"I love chickens. They're very funny," she said.

"They peck round the garden and tap at the window. They're a lot of fun."

Are chickens right for you?

Angela says apart from a thorough clean once a week, the chickens aren't hard work.

Even her 15-year-old dog Willow has welcomed the feathery friends to her home.

But Angela does have advice for anyone tempted to keep chickens for the first time.

"It's fine if you think ahead,"she said, "because we're not in normal times.

"My husband and I work from home at the moment, so there's no problem. When we go back to work, we'll have to build an extension on the coop.

"I don't want to let them roam when I'm not here. So you have to consider, will I be able to cope with chickens when normal life resumes?

"They are good company, the fresh eggs are lovely.

"Just like any other pets, they come with responsibility, so you have to take it seriously.

"You have to make sure there'll be someone ready to look after them if you go away. If you have all those things, I don't see a problem."

City chickens

Even though some sellers worry about meeting their customers' demands - others say everyone on the waiting list will get their hens.

"I think demands will be met," said Robbie Llewellyn, from Robbie's Roosters, in Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan.

He has seen an increased demand from city dwellers since the lockdown began and has been delivering to most parts of Cardiff.

"I just think prices will inflate and people will just have to wait a few weeks for their orders," he added.

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