DEMAND for backyard laying hens has skyrocketed as consumers seek to secure a supply of eggs and occupy children at home.

There have been unconfirmed reports over the weekend of small flocks of birds going missing, and even eggs from larger farms taken from pack houses.

Rosehill Hatchery in Essex, which supplies backyard point-of-lay pullets has reported that its stock had largely sold out over the past few days because of covid-19.

Sold out

It said all “good laying hens” had been sold, and new stock would not be available for three weeks.

And it was a similar story at Edinburgh Chickens, which reported a sell-out weekend. “Thank you to all who came to pick up hens this weekend,” the firm said on Facebook. “Everything ran smoothly, and the social distancing measures went well.

“Apologies to those who missed out but I’m doing my very best to re-stock very quickly so please join the mailing list for alerts if you haven’t already.”

‘Eat the birds’

The British Hen Welfare Trust, which rehouses hens from commercial poultry farms, told the Telegraph it had suspended new registrations after suspicions had been raised that would-be re-homers were potentially trying to buy birds for meat.

“But on Tuesday the tone of the calls changed. When people were offering 25p a hen, we began to think people wanted to eat the birds, not offer them homes.

“So, we are no longer taking reservations from people who aren’t already on our books.”