"We found ourselves stuck at home with COVID-19, with the pandemic and a lot of time on our hands and a lot of thinking and realized that we could do this," Allison Abta, a backyard chicken keeper, said.
Amid the pandemic, more Americans are adding something new to their backyards: chickens.
"These chickens are, like, my favorite thing, honestly. When I get back from school every day, this is the first place I go to," Violet Abta, a 12-year-old backyard chicken keeper, said.
The Abta family had talked about setting up a backyard coop for years at their home in Northern California's Marin County. But it wasn't until August that they thought, now's the time.
"The kids and the chickens are very connected. We have names, and they know exactly what type each one is. Each one's a different variety. So they're learning a lot," Allison Abta said.
Inside a wire-mesh enclosure, they have five heritage hens, each of them a different breed. And their idea is not unique. The American Poultry Association reports a sharp uptick in demand for chicks this year.
"Once COVID hit, my phone just started ringing off the hook, and it just has not slowed down. I don't think it's going to slow down. I think this new interest and passion in chickens is permanent," Leslie Citroen, owner of Mill Valley Chickens, said.
Advocates for backyard chicken coops point to environmental sustainability and fresher food. But there are some potential health risks.
"There are some very serious diseases that can jump the species boundary between backyard birds and humans. Avian influenza is a good example," Catherine Brinkley, a professor at the University of California, Davis, Department of Human Ecology, said.
Researchers say more local regulations are needed to protect public health. Nobody is sure if this surge in demand will continue into the new year. But for the Abtas, they say so far, it's been an "egg-cellent" idea.
"I really love them. They're really cute and nice," Ariella Abta, 9-year-old backyard chicken keeper, said.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press