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More Tampa Bay area families raise backyard chickens during the pandemic

Hillsborough recently approved backyard hens
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Posted at 5:46 AM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 08:41:02-05

TAMPA, Fla. — More families are raising backyard chickens since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to guarantee daily fresh, organic eggs and new pets — full of personality — for their children.

"It turned out to be much easier than I anticipated," said Kelly Cabezas, whose family relocated from Los Angeles to Tampa a few years ago. The Cabezas family now has four backyard hens.

It's a trend that garden and feed stores are seeing increase across the Tampa Bay area, especially since March when slow supply chains caused shortages on must-need items.

"The store shelves were bare," Luis Cabezas told ABC Action News. "One day she [Kelly] said, let's get chickens."

In September, Hillsborough County Commissioners passed an ordinance allowing families to have up to five backyard hens in the yard of single-family homes. Chickens are also allowed in the City of Tampa.

"They get the run of the yard and so they eat bugs," Luis Cabezas said. "They eat all the scary bugs that the kids are scared of!"

But they feel one of the biggest benefits is the daily fresh, organic eggs. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply on Nebraska Avenue said they've seen a huge jump in people wanting to raise backyard chickens.

Shell's sells baby chicks, chicken feed, and other supplies to care for them.

"I think they're really great pets for people to have," said Marissa Byrum, who runs a blog for the store with lots of information about raising chickens. "They are the pets that give back."

Byrum said chickens are generally pretty easy to care for as long as you are physically able to get outside and regularly clean the coop and are home enough to provide feed, water, and monitor your hens.

"If you travel a lot and you're not home very much I might not get chickens unless you have a very reliable chicken sitter," Byrum said.

In the meantime, the Cabezas family, including their young kids River and Daisy, say their chickens bring them a lot of joy.

"I didn't realize the personalities would be so distinct," Kelly Cabeza said. "They're definitely pets."