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With egg prices soaring, cities welcome backyard chickens

Alex Brown, on

Published in News & Features

For five years, a woman known as the Chicken Lady of South Jersey urged local officials in Haddon Township, New Jersey, to allow her and other residents to keep chickens in their backyards. She eventually won them over — but that was just the beginning.

The woman, Gwenne Baile, became a traveling chicken guru for residents and local leaders in nearby towns who wanted to pass similar laws. In the eight years since her first victory, Baile has helped residents in another 27 New Jersey and Pennsylvania towns lobby successfully for backyard chicken laws, while advising officials on how to craft such ordinances.

“You don’t need a farm to have hens,” Baile said. “Chickens can eat your food waste and provide great fertilizer for the garden. People in the chicken movement want to have some control over their food supply.”

In recent months, backyard chicken advocates like Baile have been winning victories around the country. Prompted in part by the sky-high price of supermarket eggs, city councils from Arizona to Florida to Oklahoma have approved ordinances allowing people to welcome hens into their yards, and one legislature, Texas, is even considering a statewide law.

“There’s much more interest in backyard flocks, and it’s related to the fact that egg prices have gone way up, and eggs are really scarce,” said Richard Blatchford, a poultry specialist at the University of California, Davis Department of Animal Science.

Backyard chicken advocates also may want to have a connection with the food they eat, provide an educational experience for kids or even keep therapy chickens for their emotional benefits.


The average price of a dozen eggs rose from $1.79 in December 2021 to $4.25 at the end of last year, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data figures. Cost increases have been driven by inflation and an avian flu outbreak that led to the death and culling of millions of chickens.

“As egg prices have gone up, a number of residents have said this is something they'd like to see to address costs at the grocery store as well as being more food independent,” said Tim Maday, community development director for the city of Zeeland, Michigan, where officials are considering an ordinance that would allow residents to keep up to four chickens.

But experts caution that aspiring chicken owners who are motivated solely by egg prices are in for a reality check.

“You’ll never be able to produce eggs cheaper than the store,” said University of Kentucky poultry specialist Jacquie Jacob. “I know a lot of people who have considered [raising backyard chickens], and then went to the store, saw the price of feed and said no.”


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