It may seem unlikely that one of the world’s most popular foods could become one of Austin’s most popular pets, but that is exactly what is happening across the city and across the U.S.
Lately, owning pet chickens has started to become a tradition that is as American as apple pie. That is what John Bushong, manager of Buck Moore Feed and Supply, has observed. The locally owned store sells chickens each spring and summer to fowl-loving families throughout the city.
“Over the last five years is when it has really gotten big,” said Bushong, who owns more than 50 chickens. “It’s almost exponential how many people in town have chickens; they are really kind of the new pet.”
An egg-cellent pet
Bushong could not pinpoint the exact reasons for the recent chicken craze but said one draw is the daily fresh eggs provided by the feathered pets.
“It’s hard to beat the idea of getting fresh eggs,” he said. “Fresh eggs taste totally different from store-bought eggs. And it’s hard to beat getting fresh eggs from your pet every morning.”
Optimally a chicken will lay an egg per day, though they do go through periods of more and less fruitfulness, Bushong said. A chicken’s peak egg-laying years are between the ages of 4 years and 5 years. Other factors like stress level, hours of daylight and temperature can also affect egg production.
Bushong contributes part of the uptick in chicken popularity to people’s desire to be more educated about their food.
“I think a lot of people are seeing we are losing our basis in where our food comes from,” he said.
Happy pet, happy people
Aside from egg-laying, chickens are just plain fun. That is, according to Bushong and other Austin chicken owners.
“A lot of people started getting chickens strictly for the food aspect of it but started realizing how entertaining chickens are,” he said. “Once people started figuring that out, it exploded.”
Joel Klumpp agrees. The Klumpps were recently recognized by the city for their exceptionally green garden, which includes chickens.
“The thing I like about having chickens is the life they can have in my backyard is so much better than the life of the average chicken in the United States that is raised for either eggs or meat,” Klumpp said. “It gives me pleasure to know that they have things pretty good.”