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Juliana, 3, and August, 1, dashed into the backyard to gather a couple eggs from their coop. Their mother Pamela, followed behind, empty newspaper bag in tow, ready to pick up any overnight chicken poop.
Their eggs collected, Juliana and August headed to the kitchen to make breakfast. But this meal wasn’t collected at a farm. The kids live in the heart of Silver Spring. The chicken and coop came from RentACoop, a new service Pamela found on parenting daily deals website Certifikid. “I think the fact that I never grew up around any of that sparked my interest more,” Pamela says. “I was ridiculously excited about it.”
Pamela admits she didn’t know anything about chicken care. To give herself time to research raising chickens, Pamela arranged for an April rental just in time for Easter.
When RentACoop delivered the red-and-green coop, co-owners Tyler Phillips and Diana Samata included two hens, hay bedding, and food. They also included a chicken-care pamphlet with the number for their 24-hour chicken-care hotline, just in case.
“It was a learning experience for our whole family,” Pamela says.
Phillips and Samata founded RentACoop earlier this year as an offshoot of Squeals on Wheels, a mobile petting-zoo company owned by Phillips’ parents. The couple says they grew up with chickens and wanted kids to have a similar experience understanding where food comes from.
Taking care of the chickens is straightforward: Let them out for a couple hours a day, clean the coop once a week, and give them food. Concerned about smell or noise? According to Pamela, her neighbors weren’t even aware there were chickens until she brought them over.
“Everyone is nervous at the beginning,” Phillipssays. “People don’t know that they’re very easy to raise and they’re such sweet pets.”
RentACoop hens are Golden Comets, a breed of chicken that lays an unusually large number of eggs, Phillips says. Because the animals are intended for children, Phillips and Samata say they raise them so that they’re not nippy or aggressive. Unlike other pets, though, they can’t be potty trained.
“They were very friendly, never did anything to harm or scare my children,” Pamela says. “They just walked around the garden and ate the worms and bugs, essentially fertilizing it for us.”
Since launching in April, Phillips and Samata have rented 60 coops to families in the D.C. metro area, they say. Coops run $140 for the first month and $105 each month after. The coops are also for sale for $485.
Although Pamela returned the coop after a month, she says she plans to make the rental once a year.
“I understand that having a lot of chickens in your backyard can be disturbing, but with one or two—and everyone so interested in organic these days—it shouldn’t be a problem,” she says.