Jared Shupp started selling day-old chicks at Agway on West Market Street in West Manchester Township two years ago. The first year, 300 went to local families looking to start or expand their backyard flocks.

The next year, Shupp sold 3,000 chicks.

This year, he expects to sell 5,000.

Raising backyard chicken flocks is a growing trend across the nation, Shupp said. He works as manager and resident “chicken expert” at the store.

Shupp credits the growing trend to an increased interest in where food comes from, “and there's just the joy of raising chickens,” he said. “They're really fun.”

The U.S. Postal Service has said the number of packages it ships across the country containing chicks has skyrocketed — increasing 7 percent between 2008 and 2009 alone.

A recent study organized by agricultur al supply chain Tractor Supply Co. and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy reported that around 3 percent of U.S. households were home to backyard chick ens in 2012.

One of those households is the Livels bergers' in Oxford Township in Adams County.

The Livelsbergers started raising chick ens 15 years ago as show birds. But when her family encountered debt and unem ployment in 2003, “we decided the chick ens had to not be show birds anymore.”


Advertisement

Livelsberger was also interested in taking control what was in the food she gave her family.

“I have two kids with celiac disease,” said Elisa Livelsberger. “We decided we needed to grow our own food.”

The condition causes an immune reac tion in the small intestine when gluten is consumed. It causes damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an in ability to absorb certain nutrients.

Elisa Livelsberger scatters feed for her family s chickens and turkey, as daughter Atticus, 9, watches in their large backyard near New Oxford.
Elisa Livelsberger scatters feed for her family s chickens and turkey, as daughter Atticus, 9, watches in their large backyard near New Oxford. (York Daily Record/Sunday News-- Chris Dunn)

Because gluten is in many store-bought foods, Livelsberger needed a way to be aware of every ingredient her kids were eating.

“Now, I bake everything with gluten- free flour and we freeze and can for the winters,” Livelsberger said.

In addition to a small chicken flock, Livelsberger started a small garden and let things expand over time.

Now, Livelsberger estimates 90 percent of the food her family consumes, they grow or raise.

“We're mostly self-sufficient,” she said.

The Livelsbergers care for 36 chickens and two turkeys on their five-acre farm. They sell eggs around the community.

* * *

One of the attractions to raising back yard chickens is the relative ease of care, said Andrew Bowman, 16, of Heidelberg Township.

“They're basically self-sufficient,” he said.

If chickens are provided with food, water and shelter, their natural instincts to search for bugs, lay eggs and stick together for safety kicks in on their own.

Andrew started his flock two years ago with a “straight run” order from a mail- order hatchery.

Andrew intended to raise his birds for eggs, like his mother did as a kid. But his first order was only males.

“I would recommend ordering specif ically hens,” he said.

Large hatcheries give customers the option of ordering males, females or a “straight run,” which is supposed to be a mix of both sexes. Because most order females for laying, the straight run pool tends to be made up of less-popular males.

After Andrew got his chicks in order, he expanded his flock and now cares for 20 hens and one rooster.

Roosters are not necessary for hens to lay eggs, but are needed if you want to try hatching chicks from fertilized eggs.

Andrew sells his eggs to families at church or to his local relatives for $2 a dozen.

“I make enough to pay off the feed,” he said. “And sometimes there's a little profit.”

But the main reason Andrew raises chickens is the enjoyment of the friendly creatures.

“I wanted to do it because it sounded fun,” he said. “And it is. They're really funny animals.”


Getting started

 

 

SPRING IS THE POPULAR SEASON to start a chicken flock. Many stores throughout York County carry day-old chicks and chick en supplies to get you started.

The staff will be able to answer your questions and point you toward a breed that will suit your needs.

TRACTOR SUPPLY CO. participates in Chick Days each spring.

· 901 Loucks Rd., York, 717-845-8200

· 1150 Carlisle St., Hanover, 717-630-0555

· 510 Renaissance Dr., Shrewsbury, 717-235-8791

· www.tractorsupply.com

AGWAY WEST YORK manager and “chick en expert” Jared Shupp stocks day-old chicks and can help you start or expand your flock.

· 2650 W. Market St., West Manchester Township, 717-668-8258

THE MILL OF RED LION, participates of fered a Chicks Night Out on March 27 to teach people how to care for various types of chickens, and offers supplies and equip ment as well as chicks.

· 327 E. Broadway, Red Lion, 717-244-4511, www.themillofbelair.com.


Are chickens allowed?

THE VERY FIRST THING you want to do before considering raising chickens is to check your local zoning ordinance, said Beth Lucabaugh, a local chicken owner.

Each municipality makes its own rules on raising livestock on residental property.