Iva Greene’s eyes darted to the incubators filled with chicks before she opened the door at CountryMax in Cortlandville.
Their soft chirps filled the silence as they nestled together.
Stroking their feathers, she announced she was going to buy some.
“It’d be lovely to start my farm,” Greene said.
She didn’t plan on buying chicks on Wednesday but her love for animals took over and she left the store with six — the state minimum — and a coop.
CountryMax saw a significant increase in poultry sales last year when the pandemic started, forcing manager Forrestt Marshall to place orders months in advance, as opposed to a few weeks.
“We were already selling a lot of birds, but we sold about 800 more birds (last year) than we had sold the previous year,” Marshall said. “We’re already anticipating having as much growth, if not more, this year but the availability for chicks is very tight already.”
CountryMax received its first shipment of 124 chicks Wednesday morning, and Marshall said he expected to be sold out by the afternoon.
When the pandemic started last year, many people who hadn’t previously bought chicks started buying them.
“We sold later last year than we did years before,” Marshall said. “Usually, we would sell birds up until the last week of May, maybe even earlier, but last year we sold through the end of June.”
Marshall plans to receive shipments weekly, but he fears the standard breeds like Rhode Island Reds and Orpingtons won’t be available again until late May or early June.
“The majority for the rest of the season will be rare breeds,” Marshall said. “Vendors are buying up all the standard breeds right now, but we had very good success with rare breeds last year.”
But Shelley Kirkey of Groton came to CountryMax to purchase the Reds, a breed that likely won’t be available for months.
“I am terrified of birds so this is sort of like therapy for me,” Kirkey said as she peeked over the edge of the incubators. “My husband was raised on a farm and we have grandkids.”
Although raising chickens has been an unlikely trend throughout COVID due to boredom and isolation, some people purchasing this year seem to have other motives.
“I like the eggs and the organic part of it,” Kirkey said. “I don’t know about organic store eggs and their prices are too high it’s cheaper in the long run.”
“It gives people something to do, too,” responded CountryMax employee Aaliyah Malloy as she placed chickens in a travelsafe box for Greene to take home.