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Raising livestock a challenge for the inexperienced

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Juno Ogle Photo Felicia Griffin, owner of Zia Farms, collects eggs in her chicken coop Thursday afternoon west of Roswell.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Some worry COVID-19 fears might lead to panic-buying of livestock

When Felicia Griffin visited a local agriculture supply store this week to buy some chicks for her homestead farm and found they had sold out in a matter of days, she became concerned about where those chicks were going.

Griffin owns and operates Zia Farms west of Roswell with her husband, Curtis, where they raise a variety of poultry, rabbits, goats and horses.

Usually, she said, the store will have chicks and other young birds available long enough that they are discounted, but that was not the case this time, she said.

“It was kind of unusual,” Griffin said.

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An employee of the store referred questions to a corporate phone number. A message left with the company’s marketing department was not returned by press time.

Another local company, Roswell Livestock and Farm Supply, 1105 E. Second St., also sold out of their 2,500 chicks during their chick days event last month, but clothing and receiving manager Desiree Rattan said that’s not unusual.

“It varies year to year,” she said. “There have been a lot of years we did sell out, even some years on a Friday.”

She said while chick days often attract people who aren’t necessarily related to the farm and ranch industry, the buying clientele didn’t seem different from other years.

“It kind of felt normal actually. It didn’t feel like we had an odd group of people coming in,” she said.

“I did see more coming on our Facebook page saying things like ‘We can have fresh eggs’ and things like that, but people generally think that whenever they think of chicks,” she said.

But the timing — given the COVID-19 pandemic and panic-buying of other goods — concerns Griffin that inexperienced people might be looking to raise poultry to provide themselves with eggs or even meat.

“I kind of wondered if it wasn’t impulse buying. They saw them and thought, ‘We could grow our own,’” she said.

She said while she understands the appeal, she would like people to understand that raising any kind of livestock takes a great deal of work.

“It’s really rewarding to have your own animals produce for you and you know where the food comes from. It’s rewarding on a personal level, for sure,” she said.

“Yeah, it sounds good, but if you’re not equipped … If your tomato plant dies, OK, well your tomato plant dies. But animals, that’s kind of needless suffering,” she said.

She posted her concerns in a local Facebook group and offered to take in any birds if people bought them and later realized they didn’t have the time or ability to take care of them. Several other area farmers and ranchers chimed in as well with similar offers.

It wouldn’t be the first time she’s taken in animals to the 5-acre farm, she said. She’s accepted rabbits that were given to children as Easter gifts and even a potbelly pig that had been given to an 80-year-old man who had been told — falsely — the pig had been housebroken.

Raising poultry can be a challenge, without the right information that experience or a program like 4-H can provide, she said.

“They don’t start laying right away, so what are you going to do in the meantime? Did you make a pen for them? This takes a while,” she said.

Roswell city ordinances regarding animals place restrictions on the type and number of livestock that are allowed in the city.

For poultry, only females can be kept in residentially zoned areas. Up to four chickens, ducks, turkeys or a combination of them can be kept on a property of less than 0.4 acres; up to 10 on a property between 0.4 and 1 acre; and up to 25 per acre on larger properties.

The ordinance also states poultry cannot be loose on the property, but must be kept in a cage or secure enclosure 10 feet from the nearest property line or structure, and the enclosure must give no less than 2 square feet per bird.

Even in the city, poultry could be endangered by predators such as dogs or cats running at large, Griffin said.

There are also health concerns above what typical city pets like cats and dogs might experience, such as becoming egg bound or getting splinters in their feet, she said.

She also worries that poultry kept in the city might not be properly quarantined to ensure they don’t have an illness that could be spread to other animals if they escape or if their owners decide to turn them loose rather than keep them.

“I worry there’s going to be a lot that people let loose out in the wild, take them to Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge or the zoo,” she said.

“People don’t realize there’s a lot of ramifications when you buy livestock,” she said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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