Sept. 4, 2013 -- Now here's something worth clucking about: A Pennsylvania couple recently launched a chicken rental site.
After noticing a growing interest in homesteading, Jenn and Phil Tompkins of Freeport, Pa., decided to offer curious-yet-cautious novices the opportunity to keep a coop at home without the longterm commitment.
After placing an order via their site, rentthechicken.com, customers will receive two hens, a portable coop, "enough feed for the duration of the visit" and a quick how-to. Delivery and setup are included, according to the site, which services a handful of counties in western Pennsylvania.
"A lot of people are scared to get into chickens because they don't know what to expect or where to start, so we try to provide an easy avenue for the customer," said Phil Tompkins, who researched similar rental ventures in Australia and Alabama before launching his own site in July. They are currently in their "soft opening" phase, he said.
Urban homesteading has been a growing trend since roughly 2004, with some urban dwellers building coops in backyards and on top of roofs. But without the proper research and setup materials, it can quickly become a mess: chicks die, roosters crow all day, and unmoved coops begin to stink.
"Raising a chicken from an egg is very difficult," said Tompkins. "Where we live in Pennsylvania, they sell peeps in the grocery store and people buy them because they're cute but don't know what to do with them. But keeping a grown one is pretty much manageable for anyone."
For these reasons, Tompkins only rents hens he and his wife have raised themselves to between 6 months and 2 years old. The low-fuss rental package can be a boon to a trial farmer and prevent the proliferation of foster chickens, a phenomenon when an animal sanctuary has to pick up unwanted animals from overzealous agrarians.
But if you happen to fall in love with your hens after renting, they are available for purchase too.
"Chickens are very social," said Tompkins, regarding the appeal of homesteading. "They see you coming and they get all excited. My wife and I both enjoy going out there and saying "Hey ladies, are there any eggs?"
A standard rental package running from May through November costs $350 at rentthechicken.com. But latecomers can take advantage of a current discount available in September for $250.
Would you ever rent a chicken? Share your thoughts in the comments.