Ah, the sound of happy clucking in the backyard, the pleasure of seeing chickens sun themselves in the garden, and the joy of knowing that your soil is being thoroughly worked over by one of the best natural bug control systems on Earth. Backyard chickens are just great, aren't they?! Well, yes and no. They're fantastic, but they also require a lot of work, and some people aren't fully equipped to handle it.
That doesn't mean you can't have some of your own, though, because rent-a-chicken services have sprung up to bridge the gap between full chicken ownership and a lonely, sad life without hens. Companies like Homestead Phil & Jenn will come by your house in the spring with a complete package: hens, coop, and food. They'll come back six months later to pick everything up.
What's the advantage for you? Well, you get chickens during the peak gardening months, when the sun is warm and you'll want a chicken tractor to turn over the soil, pick out bugs and slugs, and brighten up the yard, of course. Furthermore, your hens are around for their peak production season; they lay the most eggs in spring and summer, tapering off in fall and winter when the days start to get short. You won't have to deal with feeding and housing nonproductive hens in the winter, when they'll require extra care and a warm, snuggly coop to protect them from the elements.
If you lose chickens to natural predation or illness, the rent-a-chicken service will replace them. Should you decide that you're madly in love with your rental, they're happy to offer an option to buy. And when your hens eventually age beyond the point of being able to produce eggs, the service will put them out to pasture. (A polite way of saying that they'll probably be slaughtered and processed, sorry.)
This approach to backyard chickens is totally fantastic. It gives people who are thinking about chickens a chance to check them out, for starters, without the burdens of ownership. Rather than taking on chickens, later realizing they're too much, and struggling to come up with a new home for them, people can return their chickens at the end of the rental period or request an early pickup. For people who know that chickens would be too much, having rental chickens allows them to have their hens without the hardship, which is great news for everybody.
In terms of humane concerns, chicken rental definitely improves chances for hens; as backyard chickens have caught on, more cases of neglect, abandonment, and other issues have arisen because people inexperienced with chickens get in over their heads. A rental service that screens caretakers, provides them with information on chickens, and mentors them through the process provides an extra level of assurance that hens are going to a good, safe, and healthy place.
Check the internet for chicken rental services in your area if you're interested, or ask around among urban gardening and farming groups. You can also rent other livestock like goats if you need brush clearance services or just want a furry friend for a little while! But if you want to get seriously into backyard buddies, make sure you contact a Portland fencing company to get a nice, secure fence in place before your friends come home.
Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.