Want fresh eggs every morning, but not quite ready to commit to a flock of chickens?
A New Mexico farm has the answer: chicken rental.
"The idea is to kind of introduce what it's like to have chickens in your yard," said Gary Sims of Fowling Around SimsFarm in Corrales.
The farm, which breeds chickens and sells fresh eggs at the Corrales Growers Market, recently became a Rent The Chicken affiliate and now offers options to keep laying hens for six months.
The $450 price tag is about how much a standard chicken owner would spend on housing, feed and other supplies to raise two hens to laying age.
"We deliver eggs right off the bat," he said.
The Simses provide customers with two hens, a portable coop, local organic chicken feed, a waterer and a book on chicken care, reported the Albuquerque Journal. The 6-by-3-foot coop includes a yard where the birds can roam, along with an indoor section that offers shelter from the sun, two egg boxes and a roost. A small door separating the outside and inside sections can be closed at night to protect against predators.
Sims said the movable coop, which he builds himself, lets chickens feel like they're at home, despite moving far away.
"It's their home," he said. "They're used to it."
The rental program comes just as Rio Rancho approved an ordinance allowing up to six chickens in lots of at least a half-acre in residential areas. Bernalillo is also considering an ordinance to allow chickens and other small farm animals.
The two hens produce about a dozen eggs per week, though production slows in the winter. Families in need of more eggs can rent more hens.
The Simses deliver within 50 miles of Corrales. Customers outside of that area can still participate, though they must pay a delivery fee.
Customers who fall in love with the hens have the option to adopt the birds after rental. Gary Sims said that they can purchase the coop, or the birds, or the whole package. He said one of their first rental customers has just opted to adopt the hens and they're in the process of working out the details.
"We just kind of work with them and what they're trying to do," he said.
The farm also offers incubator rental under the Hatch The Chicken program. That program provides customers with seven fertile eggs, an incubator and the supplies to keep baby chicks for two weeks after they hatch.
Jennifer Sims, also of Fowling Around SimsFarm, said the program is perfect for classrooms, assisted living centers and other groups who want incubate eggs, but don't have space for grown chickens.
"This way, they can hatch them and send them back to the farm," she said.
Jennifer Sims said that though they see it often, she and Gary still love to watch the babies as they hatch into tiny bouncy chirping chicks.
"We think everyone should experience it," she said.
The Simses also want everyone to experience fresh eggs. Gary said backyard chickens are a clear solution for a state that struggles with hunger.
"We are a society that has hunger within our cities," Gary Sims said, adding that chickens provide a daily protein option at a low cost. "It's an inexpensive way to give people access to really important food."
He said chickens are a natural extension to a backyard garden, they provide fertilizer and another connection to food.
"It's critical that we have a better understanding of our food source, and where it comes from and how it's produced," he said.
Rent The Chicken, according to its website, is a chicken rental service with affiliates across the U.S. and Canada that are managed by local families and small farms. They take orders and phone calls, and offer nationwide marking to their affiliates; in exchange, they get a percentage of each affiliate's profits.