I’ve long had the feeling that more and more people are getting into things like growing their own food, keeping chickens, and living sustainably. But then my own interest in these areas has been growing over the past few years too, so I wasn’t sure if it was just that I was paying more attention to those topics or this was a real demographic trend.
As always, it turns out that Google has the answers!
Below is a graph of how the number of searches for the term “backyard chickens” has increased over recent years. Obviously the northern hemisphere is dominating the search patterns, as you can see the strong seasonal variation.
Interest in growing food in the backyard increased a little in 2008, but really took off in 2009 – perhaps due to the increased uncertainty brought on by the global economic crisis? This graph is for the term “growing vegetables“.
And it’s not just that people are spending more time at home and out in the yard – if that were the case then searches for “flower gardens“, “ornamental gardens“, etc would be increasing too. This graph is typical of the trends shown by these types of search terms, decreasing steadily year by year.
There’s also a strong interest in learning about “saving electricity” and “saving water“:
These graphs were all produced using Google Insights for Search. It’s a great way to explore what people are interested in and identifying broad trends. Be warned, though, you might end up spending hours playing around with it!
Very interesting, I too have wondered if more people are interested, or is it just that I tend to mostly associate with people interested in this stuff too.
Hello by the way, I sometimes pop in to visit this blog, although I have never left a comment till now… yeah sorry, I am a bit of a stalker!
@Sharon: Hi! I just followed the link over to your blog, and I can see that you’ve got some little chicks just hatched as well. It looks like you’ve got lots of great info there, I’ll be coming back to trawl through it later in the week. Thanks for leaving a comment so I could discover it!
Avian Aqua Miser
I love graphs. 🙂 I read a Slate article last year suggesting that the backyard chicken trend might be bogus since they couldn’t find any solid data sources to back it up. Smart to go to search engine use to find that missing data!
(Although, as a nitpicky scientist, I have to say that the term “backyard chickens” is a bit loaded since there’s a very popular website by that name. Did the spike in searches come at the same time the website was introduced? Looking at some stats for related phrases would probably distinguish the trend from the increasing familiarity with the phrase.)
@Avian Aqua Miser: As an engineer, I totally understand where you’re coming from :-). I was aware of backyardchickens.com, but didn’t think of them having a potential impact. I don’t know if they’ve skewed these search results. Their domain was registered back in 2000, but I’m not sure when they hit their rise to popularity. Still, looking at other similar search terms like “chicken coops”, “urban chickens”, “chicken keeping”, “broody chicken”, etc are showing fairly similar rising trends.
I would have thought Slate would be able to find decent data sources. Hatcheries, chook food retailers, etc might not share their data for business reasons, but you could look at traffic on chicken forums, numbers of classified ads for chickens and related equipment, veterinarians’ statistics, book store sales, etc. Even the rising demand for cities to remove anti-chicken ordinances must indicate a general interest.
Avian Aqua Miser
Thanks for doing the extra legwork I was too lazy to do. 🙂 Slate clearly didn’t really do their homework. If I remember the article correctly, the author’s methods amounted to looking back at old newspaper articles and noticing that people had been talking about backyard chickens for a decade. Not hard data by a long stretch! 🙂
@Avian Aqua Miser: Slate usually has a much higher standard than that – running such a story is pretty lame.
@Avian Aqua Miser: I got curious and looked up that article on Slate. It seems that columnist is constantly trying to take the contrarian standpoint on issues and trends, presumably to attract backlash traffic. He really just quotes a bunch of recent newspaper articles on the chicken keeping trend, and criticises them for failing to include statistics. Rather ironically, he doesn’t include any either! He also found a couple of articles from the 80s and 90s, claiming them as ‘proof’ that this trend is nothing new.
Avian Aqua Miser
I went back and looked at it too, and that article was much weaker than I remembered! For some reason, I thought they’d at least talked to a hatchery or two, but that was my memory playing tricks on me…
Howie @ Build a Chicken Coop
It’s not surprising that everyone is getting interesting in keeping backyard chickens and producing their own fresh free range eggs as we become more conscious of the environment and sustainable living. I’ve built my own chicken coop and haven’t been happier with my garden.
Urban Chickens from Weber Chicks
[…] you know Urban Chickens are gaining popularity? In fact, this underground urban movement is sweeping across the U.S. as people embrace the […]
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