Madeleine Scinto reports in the New York Post
Folks are a—cluckin’ for Rent-A-Chicken—the first American business to offer hens on loan!
Founder Leslie Suitor launched her feathery venture after neighbors in Traverse City, Michigan started cooing for local eggs as part of a growing farm-to-table trend. Now Suitor makes thousands of dollars a year loaning birds to folks all over North Michigan, and her operation has spurred a wave of chicken rentals across the country.
"I just love chickens! They’re fascinating. Their personalities are really cute. They’re really giving. They’re fun to watch," Suitor squealed to The Post.
She owns over 75 chickens, 10 miniature ducks and several roosters. And the 43-year-old mom has no plans to slow down, having just bought extra incubators to expand her family of fowl.
The Post interviews Suitor for the low down on her chickity biz—
Leslie SuitorWhy did you start your chickity biz?
My hubby and I first brainstormed the idea when our city lifted its ban on keeping chickens as pets in 2010.
We knew chicken equipment could be expensive; our friends bought an Amish, custom-made coop for $2,000! It can be difficult to raise baby chicks, which are delicate and frail, and we knew keeping any kind of pet outside over the winter can be a real pain.
So we thought it’d be a nice service to rent people hens in May, and take them back in early November before they stop laying as many eggs and the winter snows come. For $250, we give you two hens, a summer-cottage type coop and feed.
Customers become so attached to their hens over the season, we tag their chickens so they can have the same ones each year.
Leslie SuitorHow did you get started?
We ordered 25 chicks from hatcheries all over the state. They overnight day-old babies in a big box in the mail. The chicks are tiny, tiny!
We started raising them in the bathroom. Don’t do that!
What kind of folks come a clacking?
We serve people in the suburbs who are interested in chickens, but they usually don’t know the first thing about chickens. They’re attracted to the “back to nature,” “back to farm life” idea. They want to teach their kids , “This is where your food comes from... not from a box!” They like the idea of healthy, natural eggs; they want free range a lot of the time.
Homegrown eggs are amazing, by the way. It’s like gourmet versus fast food. And they have one-third the cholesterol compared to store bought!
Leslie SuitorHow’s your business growing?
Well, we have way more than 25 hens now. I think we have 9 breeds of chickens and about 75 chickens in total. I eventually want to offer every breed of chicken possible, including the Easter chicken breed. They lay blue and green eggs!
We’ve had people ask us if we were going to franchise. I don’t know the first thing about franchising! I didn’t want anything overwhelming like that. But there are lots of similar businesses that are taking off across the country. (They include companies like Coop and Caboodle in Alabama, Lands Sake in Massachusetts, and Rent a Coop in Maryland.)
Why did people in your area start wanting chickens in the first place?
When we first started doing this—it was chickens, chickens, chickens. It was almost a fad, and I feared it would phase out. But it hasn’t!
In my city and other cities, they now have “The Coop Loop.” You know how people have garden tours and you look at people’s gardens? Well, this is the same thing except it’s a walking tour of anywhere from five to eight coops in people’s back yards.
Leslie SuitorWhy do you love chickens so much?
They’re fun to watch. Their eggs are great. They’re just absolutely incredible animals!
We’ve actually had people call and email us from all over the world about my fascination with chickens and the rentals. Four productions, two from New York and two from California, who wanted to do reality shows on us. I said, no, though. I do have four boys to raise, after all.