For city folk increasingly obsessed with foods that are locally sourced, organic, seasonal, farm-to-table and sustainable (think Portlandia’s on-point “Farm” episode), the idea of raising chickens in their backyard is just what the organic farmer ordered.
So when I came across a Toronto Life article announcing Rent The Chicken services were coming to the Toronto area, I just had to learn more. The service is offered by The Stoddart Family Farm, based in Little Britain, about 90 minutes North East of Toronto. For $375+taxes, you get two egg-laying hens from June to October. The package includes a delivery and setup, a chicken coupe, feeding bowls, chicken feed, a how-to-raise chickens guide, and a copy of “Fresh Eggs Daily” by Lisa Steele.
I typically buy a dozen local, organic eggs per week at $6.50 a pop. Over the course of four months, I spend $117 on eggs (wow!). Two backyard chickens will yield 8-14 eggs per week, so an average of a dozen eggs per week. The rented chickens will cost $375, compared to $117 on my grocery store eggs for the same period.
There is even a “Hatch the Chicken” package which comes with fertilized eggs, incubator and brooder box. Now that sounds pretty cool! I can imagine the kids would love that.
And just in case you’re interested, it’s not currently legal to raise chickens in Toronto. The city can fine backyard farmers $240 for a bylaw infraction. However, according to this recent Toronto Sun article, enforcement is complaint-based, and they received 97 complaints in 2014. Toronto City Council even debated the matter in 2012 but indefitely deferred the motion to overturn the regulation.
Renting a chicken is not cheaper than buying eggs; however, it does provide city-dwellers the unique experience of house husbandry in their own backyard. Plus, it’s priceless knowing exactly where your food comes from, and knowing that you actually helped create it.