What It's About
A henhouse hustle that comes home to roost.
Words of Wisdom
Do your market research! Don’t be afraid to test something out with your friends and family—this can help you develop a stronger product or service and save you from having to scramble a lot once you’ve already launched. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t constantly be looking for ways to improve what you’re offering—you just want to make sure that the foundation is there before you start taking money.
Chickens were, and still are, a sacred animal in some cultures. The prodigious and ever-watchful hen was a worldwide symbol of nurturance and fertility. Eggs hung in Egyptian temples to ensure a bountiful river flood. The lusty rooster was a universal signifier of virility—but also, in the ancient Persian faith of Zoroastrianism, a benign spirit that crowed at dawn to herald a turning point in the cosmic struggle between darkness and light.
Read more about the history of the chicken over on the Smithsonian's website!
Notes from Chris
Episode 646Not many people think, “When I grow up, I’ll rent chickens to people.” But that’s what Phil and Jenn Tompkins are doing for their side hustle which now serves hundreds of households from their Pennsylvania headquarters and across the nation. But let’s go back to the henhouse. Before they made a big lifestyle change, Phil and Jenn lived on the outskirts of Baltimore, MD. Phil was working in IT, and Jenn was working remotely for a research study. When Phil was laid off, he started doing contract work. Once both of them didn’t have to report to an office, they realized they could live anywhere—and they chose to move to Western Pennsylvania, to be closer to Jenn’s family. That’s where they had an idea to start what became an egg-cellent side hustle. The couple had been raising chickens in their own backyard for years—long before urban farming was trendy. They had also seen friends and relatives try the same but with less success. In fact, a host of unwanted chickens from “city dwellers” was becoming a major problem in cities across the country. You know how it is—your kid asks for a pet, and you’re like “As long as you take care of it” … etc. If hen-curious customers discover after the fact that they’re absolutely terrified of birds (it happens) or if they decide a coop just wouldn't match the rest of their backyard décor—I suppose you could call it chickening out—it’s not a problem at all as the birds are loaners to be returned, no questions asked and with no penalties. And if the opposite happens—if customers fall head over heels with Janice or Mikaela or Lady Gaga the chicken … and decide that they’re ready for a lifelong commitment, they can opt to buy the chickens at the conclusion of the rental period. (Think of it as poultry layaway.) They began Rent The Chicken in 2013 with 1 unpaid rental, 2014 - 50 rentals … four years later, they’re managing rentals of more than 2,000 chickens. Roosters are also available upon special request, although note that in many cities it’s illegal to own a rooster. The laws are less clear on rental roosters ... but better check that out first. You may be thinking: these aren’t rabbits—how did they multiply so fast? Phil and Jenn began franchising… and this is key! They’ve got their area of PA on lockdown, but they can only be in one place at one time. For a while, they tried their best to fulfill requests to nearby states like New Jersey, Ohio, and Maryland—but they had more business than they could handle. So they began working with local partners in different cities all across the U.S. and Canada. With their partners out and about, as well as all the deliveries they manage themselves, it is a moneymaking chicken rental empire. Their coops are filled with stacks of cash (actually they take credit cards) … but they are indeed now making a living renting out chickens throughout North America. When you’re feeling lonesome and you need someone to keep you company, Rent the Chicken is at your service.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Rent The Chicken: Learn more about this egg-cellent side hustle over on Jenn and Phil's website!
- Blogger: The platform that Jenn and Phil used to build and host their website
- Saddles for Pet Chickens: Get Ready to Wing It!: How a woman created a specialized product business in a very unconventional industry with almost $0 in manufacturing costs
- Animal Lover Breeds Rabbits; Graduates College Debt Free: No, it’s not a lop-sided story: this college student pays her way through school by raising rabbits. Hop to it!
- Six-Figure Beekeeping Biz Buzzes for Minnesota Couple: The buzzworthy journey of Minnesotan bees and their keepers. These hardy bees don’t mess around—last year they produced $150,000 in sweet sales
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