It sounds like something from an idyllic calendar: hens pecking in the grass, farm-fresh eggs every morning.
But what if they stink? What if the neighbors complain about the noise?
For those casual or new-and-unsure homesteaders, a Freeport couple with Indiana ties is offering an unusual way to decide if chickens are right for you: rent a couple for the summer.
“It really is a trial period for someone who wants to have chickens long term,” said “Homestead” Phil Thompkins, who runs Rent the Chicken with his wife, Jenn. “A lot of people don’t know where to start.”
Jenn Thompkins graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in business entrepreneurship, and the fledgling company serves residents of Armstrong, Butler and Indiana counties.
After watching friends struggle to learn what was involved in raising chickens for the eggs, they saw a need for a sort of starter-kit for other interested families.
They provided their first hen rental in July, and are spreading the word with a soft-opening of their business ahead of their grand opening next spring.
“I think it’s something a lot of people are into,” Thompkins said. “We’ve actually had a lot of positive feedback.”
Rent the Chicken provides two hens (already laying eggs), a wheeled coop, feed for the entire rental period and a water dish for $350. They will deliver the hens in May and collect them again in November.
During that time period, the hens will lay between 8 and 14 eggs a week, according to the website. (Hens tend to taper off their laying during the cold winter month.)
At the end of the rental period a client may either have the hens and coop picked up to rent again the following spring, or they have the option to buy the hens.
Thompkins said often people are concerned about noise or smell where chickens are concerned. But hens are quiet; it’s the roosters that are loud. And when their coop is moved about the yard regularly, there’s not a smell problem, he said.
“So long as you move it every two or three days, they won’t destroy your yard or smell,” he said. “Our (coop) design helps eliminate that.”
Meanwhile, knowing where your eggs came from (and what your hens ate) is rewarding, he said.
“There’s a great reward to being able to produce your own food, and that reward is something you can share with your family, and know you’re making a healthier lifestyle change,” he said.
Rent the Chicken is offering hens and coops at a reduced rate this summer, then hoping to kick off a full season next spring. For more information visit www.rentthechicken.com.