Accessing farm fresh eggs from the backyard could soon become the norm for many New West residents.
That’s because U.S.-based company Rent The Chicken is hoping to break into the Royal City market.
As the name implies, the business rents out the livestock to folks who want to have a yard-to-table experience without the long-term commitment. The cost is either $425 for two hens or $600 for four hens for six months, between April and November.
Each rental includes a coop, a food and water dish, and a food supply for the entire rental period. Staff even toss in an eight-ounce bag of dried meal worms at checkout.
Rent The Chicken made headlines last year after a farm near Kamloops, B.C. signed on as an affiliate, renting out chickens to communities within the Interior. Those farmers are now willing, if there’s a demand, to drive down to the Lower Mainland and make the delivery.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from that area,” affiliate Marie McGivern told the Record. “We’re certainly hoping we can get things off the ground (in New Westminster). I think there’s a big demand for it.”
McGivern said when she and her husband began offering Rent The Chicken, they were hoping to rent out five coops. They ended up renting out 11.
New Westminster has had a bylaw on the keeping of chickens since the late 1960s. To have up to eight chickens, the lot must be at least 6,000 square feet in size and the coop must be 50 feet from the nearest habitable dwelling and no less than two feet from the property line. Additional chickens are required to have 750 square feet of space each without the lot exceeding half an acre. If the lot exceeds half an acre, additional chickens, up to a maximum of 50, need an additional 500 square feet of space.
Sapperton resident Jen Arbo is no stranger to the yard-to-table experience. She grew up with chickens and has four of them in her backyard.
“We did it because we moved from a townhouse to a house. We had a young son and thought it would be a good opportunity for him to learn more about where food comes from,” she said.
But having them isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, she added.
“If you have this romantic vision that they’re just these lovable feather things that you pick up, they’re not. They’re kind of dirty sometimes,” Arbo laughed. “Like if your chickens get something called scaly, you have to rub Vaseline into your chicken’s feet, or if your chicken is really sick, there’s not a lot of vets that will manage chickens.”
And like with any animal, going away isn’t always easy. Any family getaway means a call to the “chicken sitter.”
“We usually pay a friend or neighbour with eggs,” said Arbo.
Ensuring the coops don’t fall victim to a predator is another thing to keep in mind, she said.
“We had a dog break into our yard and bust into the chicken coop and had one of our chickens in his mouth.”
As for Rent The Chicken’s price tag, Arbo believes it’s high. She did the “chicken math” on her own operation and said unless you’re someone who spends money on organic eggs, setting up a coop isn’t worth it.
“If you’re the type of person who spends $3 a dozen, then it’s not worth it. It depends how you value eggs,” Arbo told the Record.
The number of eggs a hen produces depends on its breed, she said. The Arbo family has two breeds that lay all year round, so they usually get two eggs a week in the winter and between six and eight in the summer.
Arbo called the Rent The Chicken phenomenon “awesome” but cautioned there is some maintenance involved.
“I think there’s an (urge) for people to get back to the land, sort of speak. I think this is somebody who is capitalizing on that desire for people to have the opportunity to have things like chickens or whatever,” she said. “It’s a pretty smart business idea.”
To learn more, visit rentthechicken.com.