Sophie Karney began Pretty Chic Chickens in 2016 as a project for Future Farmers of America when she was a student at Louisa County High School.
The idea for the business, which began with 30 chickens and has grown dramatically since then, came from her own experiences with buying birds.
“Sellers weren’t always able to tell the difference between roosters and hens when they were selling chickens,” she said. Hens are what people usually want to buy, particularly if they’re looking to raise them as pets or for their eggs.
Karney offers her customers a guarantee that she will sell them hens, if that’s what they want. If she does end up selling them a rooster they don’t want, she says she’ll take it back and refund the purchase.
Karney began raising chickens on her parents’ farm on East Old Mountain Road.
“I had never raised chickens before,” she said. “I didn’t really know about different breeds or things like that.”
During the first year, Karney sold to 20 customers in Louisa and the surrounding counties. In 2019 she had her biggest year yet, selling around 200 chickens with more than 50 breeds available. The business’s Facebook page has more than 950 followers. While she primarily sells chickens in central Virginia, Karney says she’s had customers contact her from across the state, from Norfolk to Roanoke.
“I never saw it being as big as it is now,” she said. “I’ve learned so much along the way, from raising the chickens to how to communicate with customers to money skills.”
The variety of breeds Karney offers has proved to be a draw to her business. Different breeds of chickens, similar to different breeds of dogs, have distinct personalities and traits. For example, some breeds are more family-friendly than others and make for good pets or therapy animals.
This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Karney has had to cut back on the number of chickens she’s raising and selling. She plans to continue the business, though it will look a bit different going forward.
Karney will begin college at Missouri State University this fall and her parents are taking charge of getting the chickens to the customers. Karney still plans to have an active role in raising the chickens as much as she can, even while at school. She plans to study marketing and hopes to use whatever skills she learns to help Pretty Chic Chickens grow.