Imagine walking out to your yard to harvest freshly laid eggs to make the omelet of your dreams. It sounds like an idyllic scenario reserved for folks who live out in the countryside, but now aspiring urban farmers can get clucky, too.
Germantown-based RentACoop aims to make the experience as painless as possible by delivering everything you need: a pair of hens, a coop, feeding supplies and bedding. Rentals are done in four-week increments with the option of extending up to 12 weeks.
The company services much of Maryland, D.C., and parts of northern Virginia (a full map of their delivery area can be found here). The enclosures are on wheels, so they’re easy to position. Measuring 6.5 feet long and just over 3 feet tall and wide, they don’t take up too much space. And they’ve been designed to thwart even the most persistent predator, so don’t worry about that red fox you’ve seen skulking through your neighborhood.
Having hens on your property is legal throughout Montgomery County. The same is true of the District, as long as each hen has a health certificate from a veterinarian (which RentACoop obtains as a part of their service). That being said, you should review relevant local laws, especially if you live in a private development.
Hens don’t make a lot of noise – that’s a trait exclusive to roosters – so you can assure your neighbors they won’t be constantly awoken at down.
“Usually the neighborhood gets behind someone having hens,” says owner Diana Phillips. “They really bring the community together.”
Customers usually received Golden Comets or Red Sex Link breed hens.
“They’re great layers and very friendly,” says Phillips. “You can hold them. We’ve even had kids take them on the swing. And people train them to come up to them to take treats like a dog.”
Each bird will lay five or six eggs a week.
“Normally, they’ll lay right away,” says Phillips. “Sometimes it takes them a couple of days to acclimate and start laying.”
If there are any issues with the hens or the equipment, the company has a round-the-clock hotline.
Coop packages are available May 24 through December in Maryland and Virginia, and starting in mid-September in D.C.
If you end up falling in love with your hens (or at least the steady supply of fresh eggs), the birds and the coop setups are available for purchase at the end of the rental period.
6 Tips For Raising Backyard Hens
- Hens usually lay in the morning or early afternoon, so check for eggs first at noon and again later in the afternoon.
- Freshly harvested eggs may be stored on the counter at room temperature. However, if you wash them, which removes their natural protective coating, they must be refrigerated. (Store bought eggs should never be stored at room temperature, because they have been washed.).
- Spoil your hens with special treats like you would any well-loved pet. They enjoy cold watermelon in the summer and warm oatmeal in the winter.
- There is no need to place a heater in the coop during cold weather months. Not only are they a fire hazard, but the hens don’t need it since their metabolism changes with the seasons.
- When it’s hot and humid in the summer, the coop needs to be placed in an area that’s partially shaded. Spray down the coop with water once a day to help keep the hens cool.
- Save poop from the coop to fertilize your garden. Chicken manure is packed with nitrogen and phosphate, two compounds that are key for best-in-show compost.