Family creates business that rents chickens to backyard producers
GENTRY, ARK. – According to USDA reports there were approximately 518 million chickens raised in the United States in 2022 and it is predicted that those numbers will to keep going up. The U.S. poultry market is estimated to bring in around $40.4 billion per year and egg consumption in the U.S. has risen 16 percent in the last 20 years.
It is believed approximately 5 percent of American households raise chickens in their backyards and these chickens are treated not only a food source, but as also as pets.
With a market that is growing at a considerable pace, it would stand to reason it would be a good business venture, this is the hope behind Hens at Home’s business model.
Hens at Home is a concept derived from an article Trey Parsons read in a magazine several years ago. He is a Northwest Arkansas native with a deeply ingrained love of farming due to his family’s long history of it in this part of the state. His family has been instrumental in many areas of agriculture in Northwest Arkansas since the 1800s. Trey grew up on a large agritourism farm and this background has led him look outside the box for ideas. He is the oldest of eight kids and started his own corn maze when he was 15. Trey met his wife Eleni when she was working for his family at the corn maze. After they graduated from college, they moved out of state for jobs but eventually found their way back to Arkansas. Trey is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a degree in mechanical engineering and is currently employed as a design engineer. When they moved back to Arkansas, they wanted to get into farming but on a smaller scale than his parents’ operation.
Eleni grew up on a small hobby farm in Minnesota, where they “raised all kinds of animals.” She showed poultry in 4-H and was also involved with FFA. She received her bachelor’s degree in poultry science from the University of Arkansas and also completed her master’s degree in agricultural and Extension education. She has worked in the poultry industry and as a 4-H coordinator. She said Hens at Home is a combination of her two loves of ag education and poultry science, and it also allows her to stay home with their son Henry.
Hens at Home is a chicken rental business that is targeted toward anyone who would like to have the experience of raising chickens but may not know how to get started. Many people are looking to find a way to be connected to their food, often times these people have never even seen a real, live chicken or had any hands-on experience with agriculture. The average customers with Hens at Home are families with small children or people who may be retired and looking for a hobby. With Hens at Home, the customer is able to get everything needed to raise chickens, including get experienced mentors and the ability to change their minds if they decided raising chickens is just not for them. Rentals are by the month, with either two-hen or four-hen options allowing the renter to have the experience without a long term investment.
Once a rental agreement has been accepted, Eleni will deliver the hens to their new homes.
“We bring everything they need, the coop, the feed, the equipment; feeders and waters, nesting straw and laying hens,” she said. Eleni has also written an educational booklet that accompanies the delivery and covers everything the renter will need to know; what to look for when the hens get sick, what to do if they are not laying, when to call if they suspect there is a problem.
“Its about breaking down barriers and making it as easy as possible,” she said. “About 50 percent of the renters become attached to the hens and they decide to do the rent to own option. They just fall in love with birds.”
Eleni chooses hens that are the “brown egg laying varieties.
“They are family friendly, don’t like to fly, don’t jump fences and they are docile with kids,” Eleni said.
It is important renters check their city ordinances to see if chickens are allowed in their neighborhoods. Most cities in Arkansas will allow up to four chickens without many requirements however, roosters are banned in most cities.
“People don’t always know that you don’t have to have a rooster in order to have eggs. You must have a rooster to have chicks but not eggs,” Eleni said.
Hens at Home is going into its third year of business and they are excited about the direction they are heading.
They have written a grant proposal to help build and grow their operation. They will be doing some farm tours and workshops this spring, and are also contemplating a garden box rental in the future for people with limited space that would like to be able grow a small garden.
Rentals are designed to give the easiest backyard experience possible.
“The thing is, they are very addicting so you must be careful if you get a couple of chickens because you are going to want more, but Eleni warned.
Hens at Home will be visiting multiple farmers markets in Northwest Arkansas this spring. They can be contacted on Facebook, Instagram, by email, text, phone call or on their webpage. They recommend going to the website (hensathomenwa.com) first because it has all the information along with the frequently asked questions.