The McPhetridge family has kept chickens, among other animals, at their home off of U.S. 264 Alternate for the past 10 years.
And for the past year, they’ve been working to introduce other households to the domesticated fowl in a fledgeling business venture.
The McPhetridges are one of two North Carolina affiliates of Rent the Chicken, a company founded in Pennsylvania in 2013 with the goal of helping people have a food source closer to their table. The company has 34 family-run outlets across the country.
“People are getting more interested in knowing where their food is coming from,” said Joni McPhetridge. “Last year, it went really well. Obviously, we’re learning. We have to get our names out there.”
Rent the Chicken, as its name implies, lets people rent chickens for six months and then gives them the option of returning the birds to their source or adopting them.
The venture seems pricey on the face, with rental of two birds costing $400 and four birds coming in at $600. But McPhetridge said in both options, customers receive everything they need to keep chickens: a portable coop, food and water dishes, food for the duration of the rental and an informational book.
Of course, the other perk is fresh eggs daily – about three eggs from a pair of hens every two days.
“It’s not just about the eggs, but the experience,” McPhetridge said. “A lot of people are nervous about getting chickens, initially, so this gives them a chance to be able to try it out without committing to it, to see if it’s something you want to do long term.”
Todd McPhetridge said the Barred Rock hens he rents out come with the popular “organic” label.
“Ours are free range,” he said. “We give them a little bit of grain. They eat worms, bugs. We’re not giving them hormones. They’re not boxed up.”
Rental season typically begins in late March or early April, though some people have rented into the winter months.
The McPhetridges’ location on the www.rentthechicken.com website is Franklinton, where the family owns land and intends on expanding its operation to include produce as a Community Supported Agriculture site.
Rent The Chicken affiliates offer free delivery within 50 miles. And for those who want to keep the creatures at the end of six months, the cost is $25 per chicken.
“At the end of the rental, we have found people want to keep the hens,” Joni McPhetridge said. “They become attached to them.”