A recent trend, coming out of the enthusiasm for backyard chickens, has been to rent chickens. The basic idea is a company comes to your house, sets up a coop and run, and gives you feed, grit, and oyster shells (everything you need to get started with backyard chickens) – all for a set monthly fee. They will keep you stocked with the necessities, you can order some extra treats if you want, and if you decide you love your chickens and want to keep them forever you can buy out the entire operation. If you ever decide you’ve had enough, they’ll come and take it all back. Typically they will replace any chickens that get sick or are attacked by predators.
At a recent, local “chicken fanciers” gathering, a woman talked about renting chickens. I was hoping to chat with her at the end of the meeting, but unfortunately we didn’t get a chance.
Who Can I Rent From?
Your first consideration is probably which company is nearby. This seems to be an exploding concept, so there will be many choices, however you will want something in your area. Usually, they will have a set radius where they offer free delivery and will charge a delivery fee outside of that.
I would suggest starting with a Google search, perhaps just “rent chicken <state or province name>”.
Some Current Companies Doing Rentals
Chick Chalet – Acton, MA [defunct]
CT Rent a Hen – Connecticut
Paul’s Rent-a-Chicken – Sioux Falls, MI [defunct]
Rent-a-Chicken – Franchise with locations all over, claims to be the original chicken rental company -Lower Michigan, Northwest Indiana, Eastern Colorado, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Portland Oregon to Roseburg, Sacramento California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Northeast Illinois/Chicagoland areas [defunct]
Rent a Coop – Potomac and Bethesda, MD
Rent-the-Chicken – Another Franchise with many locations – Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington DC, as well as Toronto, ON & Prince Edward Island, Canada.
The Easy Chicken – St. Louis
Each of the companies has a different pricing scheme, but all provide buyers with a coop, 2 or more laying hens, a feeder dish, a waterer, feed, bedding, and instructions for caring for your hens.
For those that charge a monthly fee, these range from $77 – $180 per month. Often, the price would drop in subsequent months. Some would credit rental fees, either in whole or in part, against an eventual purchase.
Other companies rent for $275-$600 for a season, with a season being defined as a 6-month rental in warmer climates or until November in cooler climates
If a renter wants to keep their chicken, they can buy them out for prices ranging from $275 to $700. Everything included in the rental comes with the purchase.
Many companies offer extras for an additional fee, such as:
- organic, non-GMO feed
- chicken treats (like mealworms)
- deluxe versions of the equipment (coop, feeder, waterer)
- additional hens
- an incubator and brooder box/chick starter kit to hatch fertilized eggs and raise chicks
- a movable coop and run – called a chicken tractor (or ark)
Each company has its own coop, as evidenced in the pictures on their sites. The coops don’t look like they’re particularly high quality to me.
In the News
Of course, this is a weird enough topic that the news media eats it up. A variety of outlets have reported on chicken rentals, including:
Opposed to Chicken Rentals
As with everything, not everyone is a fan of backyard chicken rentals. HenCam, a backyard chicken blogger, wrote against the practice. Her central complaint is that renting chickens treats them as a productive asset, with no consideration about your obligations to the animal. She feels that farmers need to confront what they do with animals at the end of their productive lifespan, but that with rentals the chickens can just be returned to the company. Additionally, she feels the quality of coops provided and the level of care given by default by these companies is insufficient for chickens to live a decent life.
I’m a fairly entrepreneurial type of guy and I think it’s interesting that these companies have started to capitalize on the interest in backyard chickens. I don’t share HenCam’s opposition to the practice, although I understand her concerns.
Ultimately the price is a turn-off for me. For many of these companies, you’re paying almost as much in the first month as you would pay to purchase an entire chicken setup. It seems like the customers are being a bit lazy, not learning about what is involved with getting chickens and paying a high price for their laziness.
What do you think of renting chickens? Would you do it yourself? Recommend it to someone interested in chickens?