Last week we introduced you to Josh Slingerland, the Accidental Chicken Farmer who’s making a profit on purpose. When Josh started farming in 2013, he had a few chickens and a couple of cows. Now he has plenty of chickens, AND starting this year, he became a chicken landlord. As an affiliate of Rent The Chicken, he’s known as Homestead Josh and he rents chickens to local folks who would like to have backyard layers for a season.
Yes! Rent The Chicken is Real
Rent The Chicken was started by Phil and Jenn Tompkins in 2013. It matches chicken providers with folks in the U.S. and Canada who are dreaming of home-laid eggs without any of the hassle of raising chicks or taking care of chickens through the winter. The idea wasn’t original to Phil and Jenn. They actually found it by googling “crazy business ideas.” They found a woman in Alabama who was renting out chickens and after talking to her they decided to give it a try. It’s gone well enough that in 2015 Phil quit his IT job to work at Rent The Chicken full time.
Here’s how it works. Each customer gets either 2 or 4 birds, feeders, a waterer, the coop, and all the food their birds will need for the six-month rental period. Folks wanting organic feed can even get that for a slight upcharge. To make sure renters get off on the right foot with their chickens, they also get a copy of Lisa Steele’s book Fresh Eggs Daily, Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally and support from the folks at Rent The Chicken. Renters may run into zoning questions, and Phil or Jenn try to help answer them, too.
As a Rent The Chicken affiliate, Josh now has an additional revenue stream that fits with his farm. He was already raising a pastured laying flock, and when he gets new pullets in the spring, he orders enough for his rentals as well. When the birds start laying, he starts delivering rental chickens. In his first year, he had 34 rentals and will probably have about 50 coops going out in the spring of 2017. He charges a pretty standard rate of $400 for 2 birds, $600 for 4 birds for the six months of April or May through October. When the birds come back to Josh in October, he quarantines them for about a month and checks them out before reintegrating them into the flock, where they winter in a large greenhouse. The ones that are ready to retire get sold on Craigslist as pets.
Josh is just one of about 45 affiliates of Rent The Chicken that pay a small percentage for their rental fee to cover the start-up assistance and business assistance they get as well as customer support, and national and social media marketing. The affiliates run the gamut from 2-200 acres. Phil talks with them all the time, answering questions and sharing information about coop design, bird breeds, and more. Some affiliates offer “Hatch The Chicken”, where you can watch an egg as it hatches.
Josh and a lot of the affiliates in the colder climates get their birds back after the 6-month rental. As Phil noted, when Prince Edwards Island had 18 feet of snow, customers weren’t keen to adopt their birds. Customers in warmer areas, like Florida and Texas, often end up adopting their birds. Across all locations, about 50-60% of the birds get adopted. Those not adopted might go to customers who want more birds so they can expand their home flock. Others go to friends and families of the affiliates. For families who would like their chickens back in the spring, Jenn and Phil band them so they can be returned. Some folks like that while others get a new pair. All returning birds get quarantined to avoid any disease transfer, and then they’re inspected and have blood work done before being reintegrated into the main flock.
Rent The Chicken keeps on growing. Phil and Jenn participated in the Coop Dreams TV program through the Discover Program, and in Coops for Troops, that provides birds to returning military. In January, they will have about 50 affiliates. Most affiliates sell out their rentals doing some local marketing. There are plenty of markets to expand into, and they are considering international expansion. In an exciting development, they are looking into heritage breeds for a few of their markets. Who knows? Rent The Duck might be next?