Monroe resident offers tips and tricks for chicken raising
Have you ever dreamed of having your own chickens and a reliable supply of eggs at your disposal daily?
Traci Thomas, a Monroe resident and co-owner of My Pet Chicken, noted it’s not that hard, and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, has seen more people interested in raising young chickens and learning the basics. After all, with egg supplies running low at many stores, this is one sure way of keeping your fridge stocked.
My Pet Chicken is a 15-year-old company that offers advice, information, products and services for those interested in keeping backyard flocks.
“We sell everything from day-old baby chicks to chicken coops to supplies, incubators and even older chickens if you don’t want to start with the babies,” Thomas said. “I started this just as a side thing to keep my mind occupied when I had my kids, but it very quickly blew up into something much bigger than expected.”
The company, which is online only, now has 30 employees and made Inc.’s 2012 list of top 5,000 fastest growing companies in the U.S., coming in No. 17 in the state of Connecticut.
“Right now, our daily sales are running at about five times what they would normally be this time of year,” Thomas said. “Our business is up 500 percent and seems to be growing every day. We’re seeing absolute craziness.”
For those considering doing this, she noted that they should know that a bare minimum startup cost is going to be around $500 because there’s more needed than just the chicks.
“You need to have a coop, a special feeder, some start-up food and water, and maybe some bedding, which is very inexpensive,” Thomas said. “It’s really easy, but you have to be comfortable with shoveling poop and cleaning up, and getting your hands dirty.”
She estimates that it takes only about 10 minutes a day on average to care for the chickens, with one bigger hour-long cleanup of the coop once a month.
“There are occasional extra efforts of time and energy, such as if your chickens get ill and you need to take them to the vet,” Thomas said. “But it’s really not much, and that’s one of the reasons we started this business. In 2004, there wasn’t anything around to teach about raising chickens, and I thought that was such a fun and easy thing to do.”
One thing she’s learned from customers through the years is that people need to start with more chickens than they think. Many feel they only need a few, since they only want about a dozen eggs, but Thomas said while that can be done from three chickens, in the colder weather and darker weather, they won’t.
“Plus, they go through their annual molt, which is when they lose their feathers and regrow them, and they don’t lay during that time and that can be a month,” Thomas said. “And your friends and family come over and want to see your chickens and you want to give them some eggs, and you really won’t have any to spare.”
Thomas recommends starting with 10 chickens and to go upward from there.
“My biggest piece of advice is to do your research and create your coop to be rat-proof, because that’s the number one thing that grosses people out,” she said. “Rats will end up eating your feed, so you end up paying to feed the rats. But if you use half-inch hardware cloth, a type of wire fencing, it’s small enough so rats can’t get in.”
Beyond that, Thomas said some accessories that make life so much easier when raising chickens include an automated door that allow the chickens in and out at night; and water that’s able to be heated so you don’t have to run out in the middle of winter with hot water.
“If you’ve done these things, chickens are as easy as can be,” Thomas said. “But if you don’t do those things, they can be a pain in the neck.”
In most cities in Connecticut, raising chickens in the backyard is allowed, as long as any structure housing 24 or fewer female poultry keeps them 100 feet from property lines.
“Fairfield County has some pretty liberal regulations, and some towns have some acreage requirements,” she said. “The more urban you get, the more regulations there are. But most allow chickens to be raised. Even those with regulations, I know plenty of people who do it anyway.”
With business booming and the chickens laying eggs at a great pace, Thomas and her husband have been giving away eggs to neighbors and those who need them in this dark time, wanting to do their part to help people.
For more information about My Pet Chicken, visit www.mypetchicken.com.