Take a breather, world's largest poolside smokehouse. Beat it, birthday clown with postpartum depression. Hit the showers, imitation Rosie Perez Real Doll. There's a new player in the online rental game and it's cockscomb isn't NSFW.
As we've previously reported, egg prices are skyrocketing. Thanks to an outbreak of avian flu, a ton of chickens have unfortunately met their maker recently. And fewer chickens, it's safe to say, means fewer eggs. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 48 million chickens have been affected in 15 states. That's a lot of egg-producing chickens out of business.
In short, our egg situation is fucked, and eggs are now more expensive than chickens. What's an egg lover to do?
Well, one industrious couple from Pennsylvania may have the answer. They would like you to rent a chicken from them.
Yes, Jenn and Phil Tompkins have started RentTheChicken.com, and are touting it as the solution to soaring egg prices.
But this is not just a practical solution to a growing problem. The couple sees their online business as a way to change the way people think about food: "It changes the mindset of people when they know where food comes from," Jenn Tompkins told Reuters.
The business of chicken rentals began before the avian flu epidemic. Since 2013, Jenn and Phil have rented chickens to about 200 customers throughout the US and Canada.
So, how does it work? For approximately $400, you can rent two hens for the chicken-laying season—i.e., the warmer months of the year. The hens come with a coop and a guidebook.
And like a car lease, at the end of the rental period, you can buy your chicken or return it. Although you probably won't find $20 in loose change when you clean it for the return.
When the laying is good, the hens produce eight to 14 eggs per week.
One couple, Hope and Paul Stambaugh, liked the chickens they rented so much that they named them: Jessie, Fluffy, Lacey, and Princess.
"I love the idea of knowing where my food comes from," Hope Stambaugh told Reuters. "How special for my kids to see that food does not necessarily come from the store."
In fact, at the end of the rental period, the Stambaughs are thinking about moving further out into the country to add a few more chickens to their flock.
So, beware that RentTheChicken.com may turn you into a chicken farmer with a newfound love of avian husbandry. As the Tompkins point out, "Pretty soon they'll have tomato plants and be turning the chicken manure into compost."
Of course, the city or town you live in may not allow you to raise chickens in your backyard. Philadelphia, for example, bans urban chicken farming. Another problem is the neighbors. According to a recent study conducted by the federal government, over 40 percent of respondents in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City were strongly opposed to their neighbors having chickens.
Nevertheless, in many municipalities, including New York City, urban chicken farming is growing in popularity. No one knows how many hens are kept in New York City backyards—keeping roosters is illegal—but as The New York Times reported, a group called City Chicken Meetup doubled in size over the past few years.
So, if the prices of eggs at your local Whole Foods are making your eyes roll back in your head, just hit up RentTheChicken.com. You too can have your own Peckers or Lady Cluckley. And glorious, glorious eggs to boot.
Time to slather some chawanmushi in hollandaise and force-feed your newfound fowl some scrambled eggs. The universe will thank you.