Rent a car? Sure. Rent a house? Yes. Rent poultry? Anything is possible.
How did the chicken cross the road? Well, if that chicken lives in western Pennsylvania, it might have been driven down the road and to the home of a renter.
An apartment renter,
you ask? No, to a renter of the chicken itself, via the Freeport, Penn., recently
launched small business Rent
Small Business Inspiration
Last year, when Jenn
Tompkins had six months left on a contract position on a motorcycle project, she
and her husband, Phil, explored ideas “of what could we do that was more for
ourselves,” says Phil. The answer: Launch a small
The Tompkinses looked
to their hobbies for inspiration on what kind of small business to start. The
couple has been raising chickens in their own backyard for years—long before
urban farming was trendy. But they had seen friends and relatives try the same
and fail. In fact, a host of unwanted chickens from city dwellers was becoming
a major problem in cities across the
And thus, Rent the
Chicken was born.
What the Small Business Is
Customers who rent
from the Tompkinses’ two-person business receive a coop, 100 pounds of chicken
feed, a feed dish, water dish and two hens that lay eight to 14 eggs weekly.
This $350 turnkey service includes free delivery within a 50-mile radius of the
Tompkinses’ homestead. At the end of a six-month rental period, if the customer
opts out, the Tompkinses pick up the hens, coop and dishes. “But we found
people don’t want to get rid of them,” Phil says. “The chicken has become part
of the family, so we offer an adoption program, and they can buy it out.”
Weird Small Business Naysayers
Not many people think, “When I grow up, I’ll rent chickens to people.” But still, Phil is convinced he and his wife didn’t take an insurmountable risk when launching their small business—no matter how weird the premise seemed. “People need to know where their food is coming from, and the experience we provide is a turnkey operation so that just about anyone can raise backyard chickens,” he says. “[Customers] don’t have to worry about anything.”
The Tompkinses aren’t
the only ones who rent chickens in the United States, but that hasn’t stopped a
few farmers from scoffing at Rent the Chicken’s concept. “People are really
going to rent chickens?” they ask Phil.
Rent they will. By mid-February, customers had already placed deposits on half of the Tompkinses’ inventory, “And that’s with non-refundable deposits,” Phil adds. The interest prompted the couple to up their chicken count.