Pine Belt neighbors combat high egg prices with backyard chicken flocks
PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - With egg prices still high across the country, there’s an increased interest in backyard flocks.
In the Pine Belt, many neighbors have been raising chickens and collecting eggs long before the latest surge in price.
Miranda Adams and her husband, Prentiss, started the backyard hobby about two years ago.
“Just for fun,” said Miranda Adams on why she started raising chickens. “Maybe see if we can get some eggs. Just to get us outside.”
Even though her children are older and no longer at the house, Miranda is anything but an empty nester.
The couple started with around eight chickens and now they have more than 3 dozen.
“Now we have 38 and we are getting eggs every day,” Miranda said.
She has since added two more chickens to her flock, giving her a total of 40 chickens.
The Adams family lives in Lamar County. When friends and neighbors first heard about their plan, it didn’t take long for Miranda to earn a new nickname.
“The crazy chicken lady,” Miranda said with a laugh.
Some people raised an eyebrow at the Adams’ plan, but when egg prices started rapidly climbing in 2022, the family had something to strut about.
“It’s so expensive, and, so now it is a thing,” Miranda said. “Everybody wants eggs.”
Daily return trips from the homemade coop are rarely empty-handed.
While counting chickens before they hatch might be difficult, Miranda said counting eggs is easy.
“I am averaging 20 to 24 eggs a day,” Miranda said.
Miranda cleans the eggs before her father takes the products to the farmer’s market in Hattiesburg.
Sales have been on the rise.
“He has eggs on pre-order,” Miranda said. “People coming in wanting them every Wednesday morning and every Saturday morning.”
Questions about backyard flocks are a little more common at Mississippi State University Extension Offices these days.
“More and more people are certainly looking at it,” said Matthew Thornton, the county coordinator and extension agent for Forrest County.
Thornton said the most important thing to do is check for local ordinances pertaining to chickens in city limits, the number of animals allowed and any other restrictions.
If raising chickens is allowed, Thornton said to start with a coop.
“We want to make sure we got airflow,” Thornton said. “You want to get in there and clean it out, but you want it to be watertight. You want it to stay dry.”
There are more than just concerns over a fox in the hen house. Whether the chickens are kept in a coop or pen or if they are free range, like the Adams’ flock, the animals should be protected from predators like hawks, raccoons, possums or even dogs and cats.
“That is a lot of times overlooked in our more residential areas,” Thornton said. “You’re not out in the country, but you still have to worry about those smaller predators that can eat eggs and eat the chickens, so we want a fence that is small enough to keep our chicks in but our predators out.”
Thornton said it is important to have clean water and food for the chickens. Owners should make arrangements for care in the event of a vacation or trip.
The chicken feed will vary depending on the age of the chickens. Thornton recommends buying products at a local feed store.
“They sell those rations; they are labeled as such,” Thornton said. “They’re pre-mixed, and they come with a guarantee on the bag of what is in there, and you know when to transition into the different feeds.”
With more than 400 varieties of chickens, Thornton said it is important to know the differences in breeds.
“I would stay away from the bantam breeds,” Thornton said. “Those are going to be little miniature smaller birds. Some of them do produce a lot of eggs, they’re just going to be smaller-sized eggs.
So, you can go with some of your dual-purpose breeds. Rhode Island reds. Delawares. Wine dots. Those are very common. Those are going to work well for both meat or laying eggs. And then some Mediterranean breeds. leghorns and anconas that you can use for purely egg production.”
Biosecurity is also top of mind for backyard and commercial poultry producers. The avian bird flu is being blamed for widespread deaths and impacts on the egg and poultry industry in recent years.
“If you do go visit someone’s house who has chickens, wash your shoes, wash your hands (and) change clothes before you go and handle them and work with your flock,” Thornton said.
Back at the Adams’ farm, Miranda knows her hobby isn’t likely to leave much of a nest egg, but her chicks have now become a productive part of her family.
“I am not making a lot, but I haven’t spent any of it because I am going to pour it right back into the chickens,” Miranda said. “I would say they’re the first pets I’ve ever had that actually support themselves.”
In addition to the farmer’s market, Miranda said she has also sold and shared eggs with friends, neighbors and even strangers.
Several Pine Belt neighbors with backyard chickens have also taken to social media to advertise eggs for sale as an alternative to the grocery store.
To learn more about a backyard flock from the Mississippi State University Extension Office, click HERE.
Want more WDAM 7 news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Copyright 2023 WDAM. All rights reserved.