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City Dwellers Try Raising Chickens

Caged hen feeds at egg farm in San Diego County, CA.
Caged hen feeds at egg farm in San Diego County, CA.
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More and more Americans are showing an interest in organic and locally-produced food. As the interest increases, raising chickens has been gaining popularity in some American cities. Poultry farming may not be right for everyone. But the business seems to have a bright future.

“Look, we got three eggs this time.”

Collecting eggs is a daily pleasure for the Hurst family. Naomi Hurst says her family started to raise chickens in the back of their home in Maryland last October.

“I have been wanting to try having backyard chickens for a couple years now. And really just didn’t have the time to build my own coop and then look out where to buy chickens. And then we stumbled upon Rent a Coop.”

Rent a Coop is a chicken rental business. Tyler Phillips launched the company with a partner in May of 2012.

“It comes with the mobile coop on wheels, two egg-laying hens, feed, bedding, water fowl, feed bowl, and our 24-hour chicken hotline. You can call with any questions. ”

After the four weeks have passed, individuals can extend the rental agreement, return everything or purchase the animals and supplies.

Tyler Phillips designs and makes the coops -- buildings where the birds are kept. He says he wants to do as little damage as possible to the environment.

“We always try to have as many recycled materials as possible. And I want the coops to be safe for kids, number one. And I want the chickens to be comfortable. I want them to have access to the grass while being inside the coop. And I want it to be easily movable, light weight.”

Mr. Phillips says the chicken coop rental business came from his love of animals. He grew up on his parents’ farm, near Washington, DC.

The Hursts hope their farm teaches their daughter to be caring and responsible.

“The eggs are yummy.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever thanks where food comes from. But whenever we pick up the eggs we always say, ‘thank you, ladies.’ That’s really something that is hard to teach other than having an animal in your backyard that delivers food to you. So it’s been a great learning opportunity for my daughter, too.”

Some cities require people have to large pieces of land if they want to raise farm animals. Others require an agreement with neighbors, limit the number of chickens -- or even ban the birds. Tyler Phillips expects that will change as interest in small poultry coops grows.

“I see cities around the DC area changing laws almost monthly and a different city will change the law to being pro-chicken. That is happening all around the United States.”

He believes that there will be chicken rental businesses in most American cities within five years.

I'm Jonathan Evans in Washington.