When I was living in bigger cities—before I moved to a house with a backyard and got chickens of my own—Rent The Chicken is just the sort of service I would have impulsively signed myself up for, consequences be damned. It sounds bucolic: Fluffy hens frolicking around in the grass, taupe-colored eggs laid fresh every day. (Now I’m wiser, and I know the reality of chicken ownership is less frolicking and more feces. Literally. They poop everywhere.)
Rent The Chicken’s service—a sort of AirBnBeak, if you will—matches the chicken-less with rental coops and chickens for a few months. After a spring and summer together, at which point the customer has realized what a flocking terrible idea these stupid poultry are, the service takes back the coop and hens. It’s sort of chicken ownership-light: All the lovely summertime eggs, none of the crappy winter maintenance.
“Normal people have a little taste of farm life,” Raylee Holliday of Rent The Chicken’s Middle Tennessee division tells Nashville’s News Channel 5.
Rent The Chicken can hook you up with hens in locations from Phoenix to Fort Wayne, Toledo to Tulsa, and many major cities in between. They’ll even deliver to New York City, where a Deluxe Rental Package—delivery, setup, and pick-up, four egg-laying hens, one deluxe coop, food and water dispensers, 100 pounds of chicken food, and a guide—will set you back a cool $1,100. Let me break this math down: Four hens will, at peak laying, give you about two dozen eggs per week. If you have these chickens from June to August, as the website states, that’s 384 eggs total. I’m pretty sure that works out to about $34 per dozen eggs, but please check my math, because that sounds ridiculous.
But obviously, Rent The Chicken users aren’t doing this because of a cost-benefit analysis. It’s about the experience! But when that experience includes the potential for illness, predator attacks, early-morning noise, and explaining the circle of life to your children, eager chicken renters should keep their expectations firmly grounded in reality. Owning backyard chickens has been a fulfilling and worthwhile project for me—not least of all because the eggs really are bomb dot com—but keep in mind that coop dreams can quickly turn into nightmares.