Some might argue that there is nothing cuter than a baby chicken. What may seem cute to some, however, is a nice business for others. In March and April, both Anderson's General Store and Tillman Brannen and Minick Farm Supply (TBM) in Statesboro will sell thousands of baby chicks to novice and seasoned chicken farmers.
"We should sell well over a thousand chicks and probably a hundred ducks or so," said John Flanders, front operations manager at Anderson's. "Some people will buy just a chicken or two, and others will buy 50 or 60. It is that time of year."
Customers entering either store are met with a large chicken display full of baby chicks. They even dye some chicks in celebration of Easter at TBM. "It's just something fun that we do at Easter," said Jeru Minick, co-owner of TBM. "Families really enjoy coming in to see the baby chickens. It's spring, it's a happy time."
Flanders said raising chickens doesn't have to be that expensive. "You need a heat lamp for them, feed, and a waterer," he said. "You can't just put a water bowl out there, or they will get into it, and then are unable to get themselves out. You also need a chicken coop of some sort. Some folks build their own, whereas others will buy a coop from a store such as ours. That's really about it."
Flanders said that the chickens should begin to lay eggs at between three and six months of age. "Each chicken should lay between eight and 12 eggs per week," he said. "If you own five or more chickens that can end up being a lot of eggs. Maybe even enough for your neighbors."
Minick said that they carry several varieties. "We will sell between six and seven thousand chickens this spring," he said. "We sell some of each variety, but the most popular are probably the Rhode Island Red, Black Sex Link, Barred Rock, and Ameraucanas."
According to Mike Anderson, co-owner of Anderson's General Store, there is a movement afoot in America to know where your food comes from.
"We have sold chickens in our store every spring since we opened in October 2005," Anderson said. "We are selling more and more each year. I believe that people enjoy knowing that their food is being grown right in their backyard, and it also is a way to give some responsibility to their children. Children seem to really love it."
Candi Fitzhugh of Ellabell recently bought 15 chickens from Anderson's.
"We had chickens when I was growing up, and I remembered just how much I loved it," Fitzhugh said. "I wanted a chicken coop just like we had when I was a child for our children. We have a six-year-old and a six-month old. They just love these chickens. We have had them for two weeks, and so far everything is just fine."
While Fitzhugh is just setting up her chicken operation, Nellie Haralson of Statesboro has been raising chickens for over 40 years. "I have four different varieties of chickens that I raise for eggs and to sell," Haralson said. "Jeru (Minick) has helped me sell a lot of chickens, and also that is where I get my feed. I just love chickens. I enjoy working with them, and they are my buddies."
Baby chickens are called chicks, and younger females are called pullets. When a female pullet reaches a year old, it is referred to as a hen. "The springtime seems to be the best for producing baby chicks," Haralson said. "In the fall, however, my chickens get lazy, and don't produce a lot of eggs."
Minick said his store doesn't carry live chicks except in March and April. "We can special order chickens year round, and we generally do," he said. "But our biggest demand is always in the spring. The demand for chicken feed itself is always there."