FORT KENT, Maine — Timeshare chickens. Who knew?

According to a Reuters article in this week’s BDN, a Pennsylvania couple is renting out chickens to people who want to save some money on eggs and experience the joys of seeing exactly where their food comes from. is the brainchild of Jenn and Phil Tompkins, of Freeport, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburgh,” the article states. “More than just a cost-beater, they see their business as a way to change how people think about food.”

No argument there from me. Six years with the Rusty Metal Farm chickens has most definitely changed how I think about food.

For one thing, food is work.

Sure, my 14 feathered gals out in the coop do the real work when it comes to egg production. Thanks to their efforts, I collect six to 11 eggs per day.

But those eggs come at a number of costs.

There is the physical cost of coop maintenance, cleaning and constantly making sure they have food and fresh water.

There is the emotional cost when one of my gals wanders too close to the Rusty Metal Farm kennel and goes from poultry to chew toy in the blink of a sled dog’s eye.

And, of course, there is the financial cost of keeping my little barnyard happy with premium chicken food; fresh straw; tasty, chicken-friendly treats; and a heat lamp in the winter that runs 24-7.

When I first got into chickens, I sat down and figured out what each egg produced by my flock cost based on my expenses. It came out to roughly $2.50 per egg.

At the time, I factored in the cost of coop construction and purchasing the starter flock, so that per-egg price has come down over the years.

At Rent The Chicken, it costs between $400 and $600 to rent two laying hens for four to six months. The price includes the coop, feed and a guidebook.

Since starting their home-based business in the summer of 2013, they have rented chickens, either directly or through affiliates, to about 200 customers in 12 states, as well as Ontario and Prince Edward Island in Canada.

The success of rental chickens apparently has been spurred by a surge in U.S. egg prices, which rose a record 85 percent last month after an outbreak of bird flu led to the culling of millions of laying hens nationally, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

Rent The Chicken primarily leases out egg layers but will provide roosters upon special request — I am assuming in cases of those who want to irritate annoying neighbors with the constant crowing.

After reading the Reuters article, I am left to wonder, could the Rusty Metal chickens be made for walking? Could I convince them to pack their bags, cross the road and keep going to help start flocks elsewhere?

According to the Rent The Chicken website, there is room in the poultry rental market for expansion, and they invite anyone with “a farm or little bit of land” who may want to rent out chickens to contact them to become a “Rent The Chicken affiliate.”

I already have one gal who seems ready to fly the coop. Every afternoon I let the chickens out for a couple of hours of free ranging.

When the sun goes down, the chickens go back into the coop on their own and I shut the door securely behind them.

All but one gal, that is.

For some reason, this particular chicken has transformed into something of a night owl and more often than not is waiting outside the coop like a teenager who broke curfew when I go out for morning chores

My thinking is, if she’s out doing who knows what with who knows who, she can jolly well get a paying job in egg production.

At Rent The Chicken they deliver the chicken starter kit — just add water — directly to your backyard.

I’m thinking that could be refined by outfitting the chickens with GPS collars, maps, a few snacks and sending them off like homing pigeons.

Or maybe somehow attaching the chickens to small drones for home delivery.

I’ve broached the idea with my little flock, and so far the reaction has been mixed. They are more than happy to share the eggs, but at the first talk of leasing them out for money, I heard some grumblings about minimum wage and union organization.

So for now I guess we’ll stay with home production and share only eggs from Rusty Metal Farm.

But I have their suitcases packed and ready, just in case.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.