Have you ever wanted to experiment with a new activity, but the upfront investment has prevented you from doing so? This is exactly why farmers around the country have started programs like Rent-A-Chicken. At its most simple, the program is a short-term agreement where the farmer delivers chickens and all the stuff that is needed to take care of them to a customer for a specified period. Normally chicken rentals run for six months starting around April and ending around November.
Chicken rentals are a good place to start if keeping chickens is something that you have wanted to do but were not sure if it was right for you. The two hurdles new chicken owners encounter are the start-up costs involved with raising chickens and the work of taking care of the birds once winter arrives. We knew we wanted chickens, but these were the two things we were unprepared for. With a chicken rental program, the customer skips all of the “work” and goes straight to egg laying birds.
Most people do not know that the cute little peepers that you get at the feed store will not start laying eggs for up to six months. That is quite an investment in time and resources before you get any eggs. During the first six months, the owner acts as momma chicken. It is your job to brood, feed, water, and clean your babies. Let us tell you having a box of baby chicks in your living room for six weeks was not a step we enjoyed our first time around. Although it did make for a few good stories.
The other end of the spectrum is winter care for chickens. If you are set up for it, it is not that big a problem. Just keep in mind the number of eggs a chicken lays is determined by the number of hours of light they have each day. Some breeds of chickens slow down egg laying to one egg every few days during the winter to not laying any eggs at all. In addition to lower egg production, you have to make sure their water is not frozen and that they are protected from the cold.
The last thing that most people do not mention when they are explaining how great chickens are is how they molt. Chickens molt, or lose and replace their feathers, every sixteen months or so. During this process, they do not lay any eggs and boy do they look sad.
The important thing about livestock is taking the good with the bad. These are the only hurdles we find annoying throughout the year, and we would not give up our chickens because of them. Having backyard chickens allows you to know exactly how the animals producing your eggs are treated. Chickens not only produce eggs, but they are fun to watch. Each hen has her own personality. They love kitchen scraps, eat annoying bugs, and fertilize the yard. Having chickens is a great way to teach children responsibility and how to care for animals.
With a chicken rental program, the renter gets all the good and none of the bad. Hens that are part of the program are first-year birds that have started laying eggs. The farmer gives you all the equipment that is needed to take care of the birds, so there are no additional costs. The farmer will also pick up the birds before all the winter chores begin. Also, there is always someone just a phone call away to answer any questions that arise during the hens visit.
If you want to get your feet wet without the commitment renting a chicken is what you are looking for. Two hens will produce roughly a dozen eggs per week, and if you decide you want to adopt the birds permanently you can do so at the end of the rental.