Rhent-a-flock: Get your hens and roosters here

Because what’s an Island house without its own chicken crew?

From left, Julie Morse, Andrea Morse, Josie Welch and Josie Merry are thrilled with their new backyard pets. —Stacey Rupolo

Many kids dream of someday having ponies, puppies or kittens as pets, but Chris Morse’s daughters had something else in mind.

“They wanted chickens,” Mr. Morse, who lives in West Tisbury, said. “And like any good parent, you put it off as long as you can.”

But fate stepped in when he came across an ad in the paper about an on-Island chicken rental service— Rhent-A-Flock.

“About a week later Pat and Jean were out back setting up the coop,” Mr. Morse said. “We have six chickens and they all have names.”

Rhent-a-flock owners Patrick and Jean McBride of Westport have raised chickens, ducks and other flocks for over 25 years. Over the years, they’d give a hen or two to friends who’d either keep them or give them back after a couple of months.

“People liked having them, but didn’t necessarily want them long-term,” Pat McBride said in an interview with The Times. “We thought, hey, we might have a business here.”

Pat and Jean — whom he calls “the main chicken”— started their service about five years ago on the mainland. This is their first season on Martha’s Vineyard, and the clientele is flocking. According to Mr. McBride, six people have already signed up.

“It’s usually families who want to try it out without the commitment,” he said. They’ve also rented chickens to several schools in Massachusetts.

People choose to rent chickens for a number of reasons — the farm fresh eggs, the backyard entertainment, the temporary experience, or they’re just chicken people, like Chris Morse’s daughters.

“One of my daughters can pick up two at a time now,” Mr. Morse said. “As far as chickens go, I’d say they’re pretty happy.”

The McBrides rent out anywhere from one to six chickens per household, for a

six month rental period. The $485 package includes two chickens, 50 lbs. of feed, the coop, shavings, a water dispenser and a food dispenser. Additional chickens are $40. Families can also buy out the whole “Coop-and-Caboodle” at the end of the season.

According to Mr. McBride, he and Jean own about 75 chickens. They rent out Red Star and Red Rock hens, which are known for being friendly and laying between 270 and 290 eggs per year.

“We had three eggs on the first day,” Mr. Morse said. “I guess that’s a victory right out of the gate.”

Pat and Jean take care of all the heavy lifting. They drop off the chickens, set up the coop and give the basics on hen maintenance. They’re also available for emergency assistance.

“It’s a lot of work, but we have so much fun,” he said. “It’s really just a hobby that grew into a business.”

Get your chickens here: rhentaflock.com