Get the scoop on the backyard coop
Heather Feather, Chicken Professor helps hobbyists raise their “Chick IQs”
By Amanda Halbersma March 22, 2016
Go ahead and call her a “spring chicken,” even though she has a very important job. “Heather Feather, Chicken Professor” is part of a new plan hatched by Nutrena to attract a growing audience of backyard chicken enthusiasts. The friendly, feathered and bespectacled “spokes-chicken” will appear in stores and online to educate chicken farmers and keep them informed on their plucky hobby.
Nutrena, Cargill’s poultry feed brand for consumers, introduced Heather Feather in March, in time for “Chick Days” 2016 – the day chicken hobby farmers commonly go to stores to pick up chicks (for their coops, of course). Heather is currently being featured on the end caps and displays that greet backyard chicken farmers in American farm and feed stores.
A savvy chicken that guides purchase decisions is not expected to ruffle any feathers in the backyard poultry market. Chicken hobbyists, often city-dwellers, are known to flock to the fun and educational. They commonly develop “personal” relationships with their chickens, treating them almost like pets. Research shows that the top three reasons for raising chickens are for eggs, as entertainment, and as pets.
“This is one of our fastest growing product lines,” said Gina Thesing, Nutrena brand and digital marketing manager. New coops are cropping up in back yards all the time, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and southeastern states. According to a November 2014 survey by The Poultry Site, 70 percent of flock owners started keeping chickens five or less years ago. Nutrena has been catering to this market in different ways. For instance, the brand offers smaller packages of chicken feed for smaller operations – selling 50-, 40-, and even seven-pound bags that fit in tighter spaces.
Heather Feather is expected to reach the beginner backyard chicken hobbyist as well as the more experienced. She will make her debut as a baby chicken with fine yellow feathers. As the chicken growing season takes place, over about 16 weeks, she’ll develop into a full-size egg-layer, the most common type of poultry raised by hobbyists. Chickens are seen as the “gateway animal” to more diverse poultry flocks. Ducks and broilers are also being raised on hobby farms, more in the suburbs and rural areas.
The likeness of Heather Feather will also be delivered to 40,000 email inboxes as part of Nutrena’s “flock minder” email program. Chicken hobbyists have signed up for the updates, and are also the audience of Nutrena’s Scoop from the Coop blog, which serves as a community platform for bird lovers and covers a wide range of topics, including poultry feed, feeding tips, digestive health information, and tips from industry experts.
To help grow the Heather Feather campaign, there will be promotions and giveaways, also intended to drive traffic to the blog and Facebook page. Making these con-“egg”-tions are important, said Thesing, in so many words.
“By helping out retailers, and serving as a resource to our customers, we hope we can build a community of customers who really connect with the brand,” Thesing said.