The source of the sound? The baby chicken aisle, which inevitably grabs most shoppers’ attention.
Leading up to Easter, Tractor Supply is hosting a special sale called “Chick Days,” which features live baby chicks and ducklings.
Store manager Lee Dials estimated the store has moved an average of 500 baby chickens every week since the sale began.
“It gets pretty busy, especially on Saturdays. Sometimes I have to keep one person (at the chicken aisle) all day,” Dials said.
Associate Nancy Sims, who grew up raising chickens, believes the number of people raising flocks in the area, whether for hobby or for food, is growing exceptionally.
“I think it’s more popular now than ever,” Sims said.
The allure of chickens is typically the convenience of fresh eggs, but the practice tends to turn into a hobby, according to Tractor Supply poultry consultant Kathy Shea Mormino.
"Long before the first eggs are collected from nest boxes, most chicken keepers are pleasantly surprised to find that chickens offer many benefits in addition to their wholesome, nutritious contribution to the family table,” Mormino said.
Raising chickens at an early age, associate Sierra Taylor is undoubtedly the Johnson City store’s baby chicken guru.
The various chicken breeds running around in the store’s six tubs range from two to five days old, she said.
“The best thing to know is when they’re young, they have to stay under a (heat) lamp. The temperature needs to stay right around 99 to 100 degrees, and then every week it decreases two degrees,” said Taylor, whose family currently tends to 60 chickens.
With cold weather still lingering, Taylor said it was vital to keep the chicks warm and under a roof until the temperatures begin increasing.
“They’re fully feathered normally by six to eight weeks,” Taylor said. “Then you can start moving them outside for short periods of time, letting them run around in the sun. By the time they’re about four months, they’re outside permanently.”
And while baby chicks are hot commodities, the store’s baby ducklings are just as popular. Taylor said the store sold out of its last duckling shipment within a few hours of receiving it.
“Ducks are so popular and they send us so little of them,” Taylor said.
Baby chickens and ducklings vary in pricing, but Tractor Supply requires customers to buy a minimum of six chicks at a time. Taylor said the limit was meant to discourage purchasing the chicks as pets.
Backyard chickens are currently disallowed in Johnson City by ordinance, but the practice is allowed in Washington County.
The University of Tennessee-Washington County Extension Office, routinely offers educational classes on how to properly raise chickens.
To learn more about backyard chickens, visit http://libguides.utk.edu/camelidhealth.
Email Zach Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.