The Stahl's Chickens

The Stahl's Chickens

Wade Vandervort

Andy Stahl, left, holding a Buff Laced Polish chicken named Dolly and Linzy Stahl, holding a Cochin Bantam named Josie, pose for a photo near their backyard chicken coop Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Some Las Vegans have avoided the price spike and low availability of grocery store eggs by going straight to the source.

Take Linzy Stahl, known as “the chicken lady,” who owns several hens and roosters, along with a never-ending supply of eggs.

Stahl isn’t alone is farming her own eggs. Her Facebook page, Las Vegas Backyard Pet Chickens, has 3,400 followers.

“We’re adding 15-20 people a day now, but also, since the price of eggs went up, it’s almost daily that somebody is asking if people have eggs,” said Stahl, a Centennial Hills resident. “They would rather buy eggs from locals here than in the store.”

A worse-than-expected avian flu season wreaked havoc on the domestic chicken population. Combined with a surge in demand during the holiday season as well as pandemic-induced inflation and supply chain bottlenecks, the price of a dozen large eggs ballooned last month to a nationwide average of $4.66, according to the commodities index tracker Urner Barry.

At some stores in Las Vegas, a dozen eggs runs $7.99.

All this clucking around the breakfast staple sent residents in search of an alternative source for their eggs. Members of the Facebook group share informational posts ranging from advice for building a new coop to folks looking to sell eggs of their own.

“People call me the chicken lady because of the amount of time I spend researching all these different breeds,” Stahl said. “I just absolutely adore these little creatures. They’re amazing.”

Stahl was staying at an Airbnb about six years ago that required guests to tend to the livestock. After getting a firsthand taste of farm-fresh eggs, she and her husband decided to build a coop for themselves.

And once the pandemic hit, others started to follow. The egg shortage has taken the hobby to another level, with first-time farmers or residents asking where to get locally sourced eggs joining the social media group.

“Everybody is welcome,” Stahl proudly said.

Are chickens right for you?

Stahl warns that if you’re looking to start your own chicken empire, you may want to give it a second thought.

While incredibly rewarding, she said, there are certain startup costs and upkeep that won’t be for everyone. For starters, building a coop can cost several hundred dollars between building materials, chicken wire and furnishings. And those living on the outskirts of the valley will also have to contend with predators like coyotes and hawks, Stahl said.

“It’s an expensive hobby. There’s not really a profit to be made from them,” Stahl said. “You get baby chicks, and you think they’re going to be small forever. They grow so fast. So, the biggest thing is to have your coop and your run set up before you even get chicks.”

And then there’s the cleanup.

“Just so much poop,” said Heather Kimble, a member of Stahl’s Facebook group and the owner of about 60 chickens. “But as long as they have access to shade and water 100% of the time, they will thrive just fine.”

Rules and regulations vary from city to city, but the Clark County code allows residents to raise up to 10 chickens per property, with no more than five being roosters. Residents must also live in the appropriate zoning district and must be on a lot with a minimum of 80,000 square feet, according to the county.

Stahl and Kimble both said the desert heat can stress out the chickens and hinder their ability to produce eggs, depending on the breed. Stahl even invested in a swamp cooler for her coop, while Kimble has a kiddy pool for the chickens to go in and out of whenever.

All that extra hassle can be worth it, Kimble said, especially when the eggs start coming in on a consistent basis. Sometimes it feels like everyone in town is asking Kimble for a dozen eggs, while other times she can’t pawn them off fast enough. A hen can produce an egg a day, so Kimble’s supply is plentiful.

“My number is in everybody’s phone as the chicken lady,” Kimble said. “If I have a surplus, then I will send a mass text message to everybody I have on my phone and let them know what I have. Then it’s first-come-first serve.”

Stahl agreed.

“For the most part, everybody understands what we put into and how much it costs for a bag of feed and how often we’re having to buy feed,” she said. “People are pretty amazing about that, and they’ll offer us $10 for a dozen eggs without even asking.

“They understand that the difference between getting your eggs from somebody’s backyard that were just laid that day; you will ever get that in a store.”

Rising prices

Egg prices in December rose 59.9% year-over-year and 11.1% from November to December, according to the most recent Consumer Price Index report released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a monthly government report can be used to track inflation.

Eggs were by far the most inflated “at home” food product, with the next-highest spike belonging to a 43.8% year-over-year spike in margarine prices.

The recent rise in egg prices can mostly be attributed to an avian flu outbreak that’s decimated egg-producing fowl in the U.S., said Karyn Rispoli, an analyst for Urner Barry who researches the egg market. The outbreak, caused primarily by wild and migratory birds carrying the virus, has been especially perilous for some of the nation’s largest factory farms (which can often house more than 1 million chickens at a time), as entire flocks must be culled to prevent further infection.

At least 58 million birds have been impacted by bird flu over the past year, of which more than three-quarters have been egg-laying hens, Rispoli said in an email to the Sun. Coupled with a surge in demand and low supply throughout November and December, it caused egg prices to skyrocket.

“There are a lot of contributing factors that caused prices to surge to all-time highs in December, but the bird flu has certainly been the biggest,” Rispoli wrote. “Production losses are just part of the equation, though. The national flock count was at a lower level in June and market values were less than half those registered in December — and that’s demand driven.”

The last bird flu epidemic that had a meaningful impact on egg prices was in 2015, Rispoli said. But this outbreak, which has disrupted livestock quantities in Europe, Japan and elsewhere in North America, has been by far the deadliest on record.

“The production losses can sometimes be rather substantial,” Rispoli wrote.

An end in sight

If raising chickens isn’t your forte, relief may soon be on the way for those accustomed to supermarket shopping, Rispoli said. The average price of a dozen eggs in the U.S. has fallen to $2.89, down roughly 38% since its peak in late December, according to figures from Urner Barry released Monday.

Much of that dip can be credited to the slowing demand for eggs after the holiday season. Cases of avian flu should also begin to recede during the warm weather months, likely giving way to a rebound in overall supply across the industry, Rispoli said.

“The reason for that, again, has largely to do with demand,” she wrote. “It often slows after the holidays, but retail prices have finally started to catch up to the record highs recorded in December. Consumers have been accepting of price increases up until recently, but there’s only so much the market will bear — and it appears we’ve reached that point.”

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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