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| Michelle Gouin jokes that sometimes her chickens eat better than her family. Over the three years she’s had her backyard bunch, the birds’ meals have included scrambled eggs, Cheerios, broccoli, seeds, cucumber, basil, parsley and lettuce. At times, she’s enhanced their water with a special fortifying powder that reminds her of a sports drink.
The four fowl — Buttercup, Princess Leia, Chicken and Violet — have distinct personalities and have provided endless entertainment for Gouin and her family during the pandemic, not to mention about 30 eggs a week for egg salad, brownies and cakes.
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“They’ll come up and take food out of our hands,” says Gouin, 49, of St. Stephen, South Carolina, whose fifth chicken, Dorothy, was recently snatched out of a field by a hawk, leaving her devastated. “They’re our pets, 100 percent.”
At-home chicken ownership spiked at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 but has remained consistent since then, says Chris Lesley, the editor of Chickens & More Magazine and the author of Raising Chickens: The Common Sense Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Chickens. People have become increasingly interested in keeping chickens, even in cities and suburbs, due to enhanced interested in organic food, understanding where food comes from and concerns about the environment, Lesley explains.
“Quarantine was the flash point that motivated a lot of people to get chickens,” Lesley wrote in an email, “but the underlying reasons people wanted them are still there.”
Consider rental chickens
Rental-chicken options have made it easier than ever to set up a backyard flock. It’s a good way to get in on the chicken-keeping trend without the stress of a long-term commitment.
Companies such as RentACoop and Rent The Chicken, which deliver to locations across the country and in Canada, provide customers with two to four egg-laying hens, a portable coop, feed, a feeder and waterer, and a handy guide for beginners. Rental periods vary from four weeks to six months and cost between $250 and $500. If you find yourself smitten with your new feathered friends, you can often purchase them, and your rental fee may go toward the total purchase price. You can even add more chickens or upgrade your coop for an extra fee.
The chicken-rental business has continued its boom, says Jenn Tompkins, owner of Rent the Chicken. Tompkins notes that her business spiked at the start of the pandemic and has not dropped off, growing 48 percent from 2020 to 2021.
While everyone was home quarantining during the pandemic, “there was a big shift in mindset,” Tompkins says. People decided to do some of the things they’d always wanted to do, whether that was moving from a small city apartment to a home with a yard where they could keep chickens, or making the decision to try out backyard chicken keeping.