Renting Chickens In The City

The sharing economy is changing everything, from car ownership (see our recent story on Clutch)….to chicken ownership! Last year we did a story about a chicken fad sweeping across Buckhead, but we never could have foreseen “rental chickens”.

If you’ve ever thought about owning chickens, but are intimidated by the process, renting them might just be the answer! Not only do fresh organic eggs from your own backyard make an incredible breakfast, chickens are an insecticide, natural gardeners, and according to City Chick founder Heath Ward, watching a chicken run is, “one of nature’s best comedies.” Ward founded City Chick when he saw the need & desire of many friends and neighbors who wanted to have chickens.

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Ward with “the girls” in a client’s coop

“We used to live near Lenox Mall and when friends came over, they’d see our chickens and say, ‘we would love to try this, but had no idea you could do it in Atlanta!’ So we moved to Palmetto, GA and now have 10 acres (City Chick HQ) for our girls to run around all they want!”

City Chick allows you the experience of gathering your very own backyard eggs without having to commit to full time ownership. City Chick provides a coop, all the nesting, 3 hens, feeder & waterer, free delivery inside Metro Atlanta, a chicken 101 course, monthly coop cleanings and chicken checkups by Ward himself! There are two packages to choose from: 3 Hens for $65 a month or 5 Hens for $100 a month.

“Now for those with a very manicured backyard and can’t have chickens running around pecking the grass, this might not be the option for you. Usually our clients will decide within 3 months if they’d like to keep the chickens or turn them back in, because the kids get tired of the shiny new thing in the backyard. But for those who decide to stop renting, instead of having to find a new home for the chickens & sell your coup, we bring the girls back to a fantastic life at City Chick HQ!”

So what, you ask, is Ward’s mission and hope in bringing these helpful broods to Buckhead backyards?

“I want people to know a little more about where their food comes from. City Chick works with a lot of schools and I remember asking a class ‘Where do eggs come from?’ and a little girl said, ‘the grocery store!’ It was cute but at the same time, I wish more kids nowadays were more in touch with nature instead of technology.

We spoke to a few Buckhead residents who work with Ward and rent from City Chick, for real-life insight on renting chickens:

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Annie Goode, Peachtree Hills Why you decided to rent vs buy?
Annie Goode: I knew I wanted fresh eggs and the idea of a farm has always intrigued me. I am very interested in the slow food and farm to table movements and am a bit of a “homesteader” (I mill my own wheat to make our bread, water-bath can our jams and pickles, enjoy sewing etc). The investment of money and the thought that hens can live 8 years, while only actively laying for about 3 years was overwhelming. What if my romanticized idea of owning chickens was off and we hated it? What if they were mean? What do you do with a hen once it stops laying? I found City Chick through our preschool and thought it would be an outstanding idea. Heath provides an “intro to chickens” class when he drops off your flock and constant support and guidance. City Chick is a “chicken concierge” – a great way to practice before committing. I didn’t have to build a coop, or raise baby chicks – we got to have mature egg layers and a coop all at once. The best thing about having chickens in your backyard?
Annie Goode:The fresh eggs! And they are such sweet birds that know our family -the kids have named our hens ZigZag, LoveBug, and Nutty. My three children love playing with the birds and the hens themselves have sweet personalities and are very tolerant of all the love they receive. They vocalize when we go outside to great us (or beg to be free-ranged) and they have individual personalities. It is also relaxing to watch them scratch and peck around the back yard. The eggs are incredible quality – and talk about fresh! Heath is always available to answer questions and respond to any concerns. I think we will continue to rent our chickens for a long while. Any fun little-known facts you’ve learned about having chickens?
Annie Goode:

  1. The eggs don’t need to be refrigerated. Eggs are laid with a bacterial bloom around them that keeps them from spoiling. As long as you don’t wash them, you can leave the eggs on the counter for weeks (check with Heath for the exact length – we refrigerate our eggs out of habit).
  2. The chickens put themselves to bed at dusk. They all walk up into the top of the coop by themselves and bed down for the night. All I have to do is close the bottom of the coop to keep out predators.
  3. Chickens have outstanding eyesight and will learn to recognize your face – really! What would you tell someone thinking about having chickens?
Annie Goode: Do it! We have loved it! Renting them is a great way to start – we started renting for the fresh eggs, but we continue to rent because we love having the birds as pets! If you hate it, Heath will come take the birds home – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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Kelly Haner, Chastain Park Why you decided to rent vs buy?

Kelly Haner: Our daughter’s preschool had them and we loved getting to know them. I wasn’t sure how much work they would be, so renting providing us a trial run without the commitment. The best thing about having chickens in your backyard?

Kelly Haner: It gives my kids something real to take care of that depends on them daily. The chickens really like us, and want to be around us – they crack us up with how they run and interact. One of them will even put it’s foot on top of mine when we are next to each as a show of affection. My kids now have a better understanding of where food comes from – versus just grabbing items in a grocery store. It’s been a great science lesson to learn about how they make eggs, and what they need to flourish as an animal. Any fun little-known facts you’ve learned about having chickens?
Kelly Haner: They are smarter than I ever expected. They come back to the coop when I call them, and they stay in the coop when I tell them “back” – they really can learn simple commands. We’ve had the girls since April and have had about six double yolk eggs so far. The statistics say about 1 in every 1,000 eggs are double yolks – we think we need to have our chickens start playing the lottery ;) What would you tell someone thinking about having chickens?
Kelly Haner: They won’t cuddle like a dog/cat, but they are truly fun to have as a part of our family. It’s hard to explain, but once you have them, you realize how much fun they are to watch and interact with on a daily basis. They are also very sweet and make the nicest noises. When we come home I always say, “hey girls” and they cluck back with the sweetest sounds.

My daughter has the best connection with them – she carries them around and plays with them all the time. One of ours, Luna, lays on a pillow to be petted by her. My daughter also put Luna on her scooter and she flapped her wings and rode the scooter across the back drive – hilarious! We have it recorded on our ipad…my son is hoping it makes it as an AFV clip sometime soon.

In terms of time, they are less intensive than an animal in your home. The clean up is relatively easy, and if we leave town, the neighborhood kids help me out with feeding in exchange for free eggs.

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