NZ egg shortage leads to backyard farming boom

nationwide egg shortage in New Zealand has sparked a scramble for poultry and a surge in interest in backyard farming, as supermarket shelves lay bare for the second week following a ban on battery cages. 

The cages were deemed detrimental to the birds’ wellbeing, and were banned on 1 January 2023. The government first committed to banning them in 2012, when 86% of layer hens were battery-farmed. By December 2022, that number had fallen to 10%. However, egg producers claim they are still hundreds of thousands of birds short of meeting market demand, and the chicken-egg dilemma could take months to resolve.

Animal welfare advocates are urging New Zealanders not to respond to the egg shortage by racing to buy chickens to rear at home.

“I understand it seems like a good idea, but please don’t get a chicken unless you can look after it long-term,” said Gabby Clezy, chief executive of New Zealand animal charity SPCA. “None of us want to see any more abandoned.”

Those adopting chickens “might be surprised to discover” that the birds could live for a decade or longer, might produce eggs only during their first two or three years, and would not start laying for several months, she said. “They are fun companion animals to have,” Clezy said. “Don’t buy them as egg producers.”