Fresh chickens sold out in two hours yesterday, despite prices almost 50 per cent higher than before the bird flu outbreak. The freshly slaughtered birds re-appeared at markets shortly after dawn following the six-week ban prompted by the H5N1 crisis. Hawkers got up as early as 3 am to queue for the 35,000 birds at Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Poultry Wholesale Market. The usual daily total is about 100,000 birds, and many hawkers left empty-handed yesterday. At Pei Ho Street market in Shamshuipo, shopper Mr Lai said he got up at 5 am to buy two chickens to offer to the gods. He said: 'It's a happy day. I had to buy a chicken as thanksgiving to Wong Tai Sin to celebrate the end of the bird flu.' Waiters at Chuen Cheung Kui Restaurant in Percival Street, Causeway Bay, renowned for chicken dishes, were kept busy as customers streamed in throughout the day. Manager Yiu Wai-chuen said business had been better than expected. The chicken shortage and the high prices may continue. Wholesalers have fixed prices for the next two days at $22.60 to $24.30 per kilogram. Hawkers were selling them yesterday for up to $100 a bird. A traders' spokesman at Cheung Sha Wan market, Poon Hung-wai, said prices would be reviewed every three days. The market is the only one allowed to handle mainland-imported chickens under the new hygiene rules. A Shenzhen Animals and Plants Quarantine Bureau duty officer said there were no plans to increase the number of exported chickens until officers and traders had got used to the new checks. Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching said a solution would be worked out with Guangdong as soon as possible. Guangdong supplies about 80 per cent of local needs.. The first batch of mainland chickens arrived on Saturday night, after health checks in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Last night, 35,000 more arrived. The first day of trading at Cheung Sha Wan market, where the operators had complained of extortion, appeared peaceful. THE LUCK OF THE DRAW Tsang Wing-kai had so many customers yesterday he used a lottery to decide who could buy. He was one of only two hawkers in Tsuen Wan's Yeung Uk Road Market who had supplies of the bird. The other 22 were closed. Customers started gathering as early as 7.30 am and when Mr Tsang opened his stall at 8 am, he had almost 40. 'I reckon I'll be rich soon if people keep going crazy like this,' he said. He sold his birds at $28 per catty, or about $100 a bird. He asked customers to draw a chip to decide the order of purchase and come back later. 'Some of the late-comers were old friends, but very unluckily for them, I had no chickens left.' Mr Tsang said he had spent about $40,000 cleaning up his stall and painting his steel cages.