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Rent-A-Chicken: For The Birds Or Eggs-cellent?

Wannabe backyard chicken farmers can rent birds for a season for a no-commitment introduction to raising hens. Great idea or disaster waiting to happen?

All The Eggs, None Of The Commitment

The Huffington Post recently posted a story about a couple who rent a starter set of chickens, a coop and all the stuff needed for a season of egg laying to wannabe backyard chicken farmers. Then, when the snow flies and the eggs disappear, the chickens go back to the farm. This story came after a round of stories out there about people abandoning their birds once they realized how much work they are, or — even worse — that the hens slow down their egg laying after a year or two!

Rent-a-chicken: It’s an interesting idea, though my first reaction was “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

People get chickens (just as they get cats, dogs or other pets) for different reasons. I was one of those people who researched before we got our first six hens. We built a coop, got the feed and were ready to keep them for the long haul. Even today, I just don’t think having a few hens is much work at all, especially since I have expanded my flock to far more than that!

So, I decided to ask some other poultry keepers what their thoughts were just to make sure I wasn’t overreacting. Turns out the opinions were split pretty evenly.

I Think It’s Silly

Honestly, this was my first thought as well. I would question how serious someone was about owning chickens if they “rented” the birds just during their peak egg-laying season and age. I would worry myself to death wondering if these folks were taking care of the birds. There are so many things that can happen to your birds — illness, predators, you name it! Have these renters done their homework?

Said my doubting chicken farmer friend:

It’s not just a problem with people being irresponsible and getting chickens without doing the research, it crosses over to all pets. Cats, especially dogs, rabbits at Easter… I don’t think it’s a sustainable model. Education is key, in my opinion, more workshops, PSA’s, etc.

However, if renting chickens is the solution to people getting them and then dumping them at the shelter, well, there may be a place for it after all.

It’s A Great Idea

On the other hand, for someone who is on the fence or is just not sure how to get started with backyard chickens, this is the ultimate mentorship-for-a-fee. I’ve had many people contact me with their worries about whether their coops would be sufficient, whether they could really take care of chickens and what would they do if the chickens got sick. So, having someone who can provide the right tools and then offer advice isn’t a bad idea.

As one friend said:

When my husband and I started out, we started with just a couple of chickens and really didn’t know much about it. We blundered through. We bought food and provided water but really didn’t know what to expect, nor did we know anything about their health care.

She has since become a dedicated poultry owner.

More: I wish I had known these 11 bits of info before I invested in chickens.

Jana Wilson

Jana Wilson lives on 20 acres just outside of Bloomington, IN and writes her blog, The Armchair Homesteader. In addition to the chickens, she has ducks and a border collie named Winnie who helps her with her various efforts at becoming more self-sufficient.

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