By Lisa Steele, Blue Seal Brand Ambassador
The excitement around backyard chicken keeping doesn’t appear to be abating any time soon. Certainly not if you take a look at the vast number of “chicken centric” blogs, social media accounts and the like. Consider the million followers of Fresh Eggs Daily each month on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and my website. I personally think raising backyard chickens is here to stay.
More people are starting to realize just how much personality chickens have, too. They’re being considered “pets” more than livestock, which brings chickens on par with cats and dogs for some keepers. I have names for all of my chickens, I know each of their individual quirks, and I love them dearly.
Although chicken keeping in general is going strong, I do see a few new trends emerging that I think will be sustained through the remainder of 2019 and beyond. My feelings were seconded by some industry experts I spoke with recently about what they’re seeing in their own niches.
Practical Breeds High on the List with Colored Eggs a Bonus
From what I’ve seen, the move seems to be away from the purely ornamental “designer” breeds such as silkies, polish, cochins and frizzles that might look cute and be exceptionally friendly, but aren’t exactly known for their laying prowess. Instead, the 2019 backyard chicken keeper seems more interested in breeds that are hardy, good foragers and strong in the egg production department – and if they lay pretty-colored eggs, that’s just an added bonus!
This observation is backed up by Meghan Howard over at Meyer Hatchery in Ohio. She told me the three top-selling breeds for 2018 were the Easter Egger (a mixed breed that can lay bluish, green, pink-tinted or tan eggs), Barred Rock, and Buff Orpington (both hardy breeds that lay light brown eggs). So far, this year has proven to be very similar with Easter Eggers leading the pack, and then your top-producing brown egg layers such as Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and Black Australorp.
Tina Koral, owner of Henny+Roo, a subscription service for chicken keepers, mentioned that chickens have most certainly reached pet status. She said, “A couple of trends that I’m seeing are chicken keepers who wish to have all of the egg colors. They’re seeking out breeds that will give them an Instagram-worthy collection of more than just shades of brown, but beautiful blues and greens as well.”
Fixer Upper Coops
Coop decor and accessories also seem to be trending among chicken keepers this year. I personally have shiplap, curtains, a mirror and several cute metals signs in my coop. Samantha Morley from the backyard coop company Omlet said pampering hens is definitely something that is on the increase because looking after hens can be so rewarding for the whole family. It’s great fun for kids to help decorate their coops, make egg-collecting baskets or even share their breakfast oatmeal on a cold winter morning. Morley said her favorite trend from last year was seeing people use dried herbs as a kind of “coop pourri” to scent the nest boxes – similar to my Fresh Eggs Daily Organic Coop Confetti. “People just love to treat their chickies!” she said.
So, Who’s Raising Chickens?
Celebrities always seem to be ahead of trends, and chicken keeping is no different. I’m happy to see A-list celebs like Jennifer Garner, Tiffani Thiessen and Chris Pratt sharing photos of their flocks on Instagram and Twitter, and not in a frou-frou sort of way. They’re actually actively involved in caring for them. They also share photos of their gardens and recipes using their eggs, and they stress the importance of eating fresh and local.
Meyer Hatchery’s Meghan Howard said people are really mindful of what is in their food, likely due to the numerous food recalls each year. Approximately half of her customers are “millennials” who also share passion for food, pets, and DIY, she said.
Personally, I have seen my site continue to grow in popularity because of my focus on “natural chicken keeping.” I avoid the of use of any chemicals or medications with my flock. People want to feel comfortable about what their food sources are eating and how it’s being treated.
Rules and Regulations
As part of the backyard movement and public demand, urban regulations for backyard chicken keeping are becoming mainstream and very accepted. Phil & Jenn Tompkins, co-founders of Rent The Chicken noted, “[Even urban areas like] Philadelphia are currently considering changing their legislation. With this trend, backyard chicken keeping classes are becoming readily available in both urban and suburban areas.” The average flock size seems to be 5-15 chickens for the typical backyard chicken keeper heading into 2019.
Samantha Morley from the coop company Omlet said if someone purchases one of their Eglus, there seems to be a ripple effect in that same community with more people ordering coops too. “It’s almost like it’s a fashionable thing, people see others doing it and think, ‘I could do that!’”
She also told me that schools and nurseries are contacting Omlet to provide coops for educational purposes, and more nursing homes are getting chickens to help reduce stress in their residents and encourage them to go outside and move more – or even to just provide a little entertainment through the window.
And one last trend that I have to add to this list is backyard ducks. Personally, I’m fielding more and more questions from chicken keepers wanting to add some ducks to their flock as each year goes by. My book Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Ducks Naturally (St. Lynns Press, 2015) has seen a bit of a resurgence in sales of late and my local Blue Seal feed store confirmed that they sell out of ducklings as fast as they arrive.
This makes a lot of sense to me. Ducks are cold-hardy and also more heat-tolerant than chickens. They’re actually hardier in general, not usually succumbing to things like avian flu and Newcastle disease which have plagued chicken keeping communities lately. Ducks also lay larger, more flavorful eggs that are better for baking because of their higher fat content. Ducks lay longer than chickens, and will also generally lay through the winter with no added heat or light. These are all good reasons to add backyard ducks as a trend for 2019!
On the Horizon
Breakthroughs are being made in the area of “egg sexing” which would allow hatcheries and breeders to be able to tell the sex of an egg before it hatches (at the present time it’s impossible to tell if a male or female chick will hatch). This would be an enormous boon to the poultry industry, allowing hatcheries to better meet the needs of customers for female chicks, while allowing the “male” eggs to be put into the food stream before even being incubated.
Lisa Steele is a 5th generation chicken keeper, author, DIYer and master gardener. Follow her blog at www.fresheggsdaily.com
- Meghan Howard
- Meyer Hatchery
- Tina Koral
- Samantha Morley
- Omlet USA
- Phil and Jenn Tompkins
- Rent the Chicken