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Demand for egg-producing hens skyrockets at hatcheries

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Experts at Purdue University are predicting consumers are finally going to see a drop in egg prices soon, but the industry is facing another challenge.

I-Team 8 found the demand for egg-laying hens is straining the industry.

Darrin Karcher, a Purdue University professor who studies poultry, said, “There continues to be a strain from the standpoint of trying to produce enough chicks to repopulate what we have lost for laying hens over the last year.”

Karcher said companies hit hard by the bird flu outbreak are the ones causing the strain on hatcheries. He told I-Team 8 that bird producers in Indiana are backlogged six months.

“It’s not the fact that we can’t hatch them, it’s just getting into that queue so you can make sure you actually get some baby chicks to put down on the ground and start the process again.”

The Agarian Homestead Supply and General Store is an Indianapolis bird supplier and animal feed store on 54th Street east of College Avenue. Its operators are also seeing the strain on the hatchery industry. “The primary backyard egg layers are sold out at the hatcheries we source from through May-June,” store manager Megan Sharp said.

She told I-Team 8 that the strain is caused by the increased number of people who want to start raising egg-laying hens in their backyards. “We’ve had a number of customers mention the cost of eggs.”

With the startup and maintenance costs, though, Sharp said, “I don’t know that you’re ultimately going to save money on the price of eggs, but there are a lot of other reasons why people want to raise their own birds.”

Researchers at Purdue told I-Team 8 that hatcheries haven’t seen this type of strain since the last bird flu outbreak in the United States in 2015. Overall, the most recent woes won’t have a big impact on the cost of eggs on shelves because the United States still has a lot of birds producing eggs. Karcher said, “We still have around 300 million birds, which means we can produce an egg for every person in the U.S. daily.”