Peep show in Suffolk

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tractor Supply is stocked with peeping chicks and ducklings for spring.

Tractor Supply is stocked with peeping chicks and ducklings for spring.

Long before you see them, you hear the buzz of chirps.

It’s Chick Days at Tractor Supply in Suffolk, those few weeks every spring when the agricultural supply store gets in about 250 fuzzy, golden chicks and ducklings a week until Easter. The peeping baby birds are just days old and are an instant hit among customers of all ages.

“We’ll be sold out by Saturday,” said Michaela Downes, manager of Tractor Supply in Suffolk. “Last week, they were gone in three days.”

Email newsletter signup

Part of the popularity is spring fever; baby chicks and ducklings are a traditional harbinger of Easter. But with surging interest in eating fresh, locally-grown foods, a growing number of people nationwide — including city dwellers — have taken to raising chickens in their backyards.use IMG_2558

“It seems kind of crazy but it’s true,” said Dwight Hunter, manager of Farmers Feed and Seed in Windsor, which regularly carries a selection of chicks, ducklings, rabbits and pigeons. “More people are gardening and people like to raise their own chickens and produce their own eggs these days.

“I also think it’s an educational thing for kids,” Hunter said. “It gets them outside and doing something different.”

Farmers Feed and Seed in Suffolk’s flock of chicks will not be in until the week before Easter, said owner Kent Gwaltney.

Tractor Supply will only carry them until the week of Easter, said Downes. Spring is the best time to start raising chickens, which need to be kept inside under heat lamps for about eight weeks or until their feathers come in, she said.

“This is the best time of year to start them,” Downes said. They will be outside in their henhouses by summer and will start laying eggs by September.

“They are also good for kids and it’s a good project for the entire family,” she said. “They are easy to take care of and interesting to watch. In some cases, the chickens become pets.”

You can’t just buy one duckling or chick at Tractor Supply, Downes said. Customers have to buy two or more ducklings at one time; with chicks, the minimum number is six.

“We care about what happens when they leave this store and we want to make sure they are part of a flock,” she said. “We want them to be happy.”