Ruta Smith

Quarantine has brought changes to a lot of our homes — folks snagged new grills for more at-home barbecues or added a new playset for the kids. Others purchased chickens.

There are regulations for chicken ownership in Charleston, but most local municipalities allow backyard birds, including downtown, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Sullivan’s Island and James Island, where an ordinance was passed in 2016 permitting them in residential areas.

James Island resident Mandy Tatarchuk has been raising chickens for six years, and the quarantine allowed her to expand her backyard coop. “When everyone ran to get toilet paper, we ran to get chickens,” she said.

After adding five chickens, expanding her backyard bunch to 12, Tatarchuk recalled a time when the sight of her outdoor coop would have terrified her.

“I had a bird phobia before I raised chickens,” she said. “I was raised on a farm but we didn’t have them.” A week of chicken-sitting for a neighbor changed all that, she said.

“Not long after we got six hens and have loved it ever since. It doesn’t cost a lot to get started; $7 to $15 for a laying hen. Even to build a structure, you can really use what’s on your property and get creative with your coops.”

Tatarchuk said getting started is as easy as going to a nearby hardware store. Local shops start advertising chicks around Easter, meaning the timing of the pandemic paved the way for folks to test the waters.

Park Circle resident Mollie Rhett and her husband Brian purchased four hens at the beginning of the quarantine, naming them Amelia, Wynnie, Daisy and I-Say-I-Say-Again.

“I’ve always wanted chickens, and at the beginning of quarantine we figured it was as good a time as any to build a backyard coop and go for it,” Rhett said.

Allen Davis, who also resides in Park Circle, picked up five chicks at All Seasons Hardware on James Island at the start of the quarantine. Davis said he kept them warm in a handmade wood box in his garage before building a coop in his backyard.

“My mother and sister have kept chickens at different points in their lives and gave me some recommendations,” he said. “I had to find a place in the yard that wasn’t too sunny because given the temperature around here they need to stay cool.”

According to Davis, the coop-building process would have taken much longer if not for the quarantine — he would often take breaks between work calls to head out back and add to the structure. Now that the chicks are starting to grow, Davis can take a few minutes each day to give them a supervised walk around the yard. He said he’s expecting his chickens to start laying eggs by next spring.

The Rhetts’ hens are each laying one egg a day, and Tatarchuk’s chickens are helping her provide eggs for her household and members of the neighborhood.

“The girls have provided a steady stream and sometimes we can donate to a neighbor in need,” Tatarchuk said. “We rotate providing eggs to four other families. Porch dropping the eggs is one of the few ways to connect with people right now.”

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