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'Rent-a-Chicken': Montague farm goes 'fowl,' offers urban farming revolution

Happy Acres Farm seemingly has more animals than Noah's Ark, but it's their chickens that are getting the most attention, as many are rented out annually.

MONTAGUE, Mich. — What are some things we find ourselves having to rent? Cars and apartments are certainly among the most popular rentals. 

Children of the 1980s can't forget renting VHS movies from Blockbuster Video stores.

A rental opportunity of a much different kind is growing in popularity, even though it eventually becomes quite..."fowl."

Leslie Bond Strychar owns Happy Acres Farm in Montague, Mich., where she raises everything from cows, pigs, horses, rabbits, chickens, peacocks and an angry turkey named Tom.

"I would love to send Tom away on a summer vacation," joked Leslie. "I don't think I'd miss him one bit."

While Tom continues to sort through a turkey's version of anger management issues, it's Leslie's chickens that are becoming the most popular.

"We do something called 'Rent-a-Chicken,'" said Leslie. "When I heard about it, I thought it was equal parts genius and ridiculous, but I knew I wanted in."

Rent-a-Chicken is a form of "poultry adoption," where those interested literally take two to four laying hens home for six months to see if they can handle all of the responsibilities involved in caring for them. At the end of the rental period, the renter returns them back to the homestead.

"It's a way to test drive them to see if they're a good fit for your family," added Leslie.

For $350 (half of which is a non-refundable down payment), it becomes pretty much a turn-key operation. Once you sign all the paperwork, Leslie will bring two hens, a chicken coop, food and any additional necessary equipment to your house.

She'll then spend the entire day making sure you learn how to properly care for the chickens, and to answer any questions.

"Last year, we didn't get our rented chickens back until November," Leslie said. "People really took to them."

Happy Acres Farm is the only place in West Michigan currently doing a Rent-a-Chicken program, which is about to enter its third straight year.

Leslie says her reason behind offering Rent-a-Chicken is because she wants to push an important message, which is, "Know where your food comes from."

"The chickens will lay up to 12 eggs a week; you won't have to worry about going to the grocery store that day; you can just go to your backyard."

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE
If you're interested in Happy Acres Farm's "Rent-a-Chicken" program, reach out to Leslie Bond Strycher.

If you're interested in participating in Rent-a-Chicken, or just learning more about it, Happy Acres Farm encourages people to check out its website and Facebook page.

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