Lee Pitts: Rent-A-Turnip | TSLN.com

Lee Pitts: Rent-A-Turnip

Have you heard about the greatest moneymaking franchise since Nerds-To-Go? It's called Rent-A-Chicken and it was started by Leslie Suitor six years ago in Michigan. Let me tell you, this Ms. Suitor is one very smart chick.

According to a news blurb in the ever-enjoyable Fence Post magazine, Leslie sells franchises who in turn rent out two laying hens, a portable coop and enough feed to last six months. And all for only $400! It sounds like a great way to teach your children about agriculture and the food they eat. Although the economics may not pencil out.

Let's do the math. You keep the two hens for six months and at a purchase price of $400 that equals $66.66 per month. The article I read indicated that you'd get two eggs every day from your two hens but it was my awful experience in raising chickens in my youth that you don't get an egg every day from a hen. Thank goodness for that because I hate eggs. So much so my mom accused me of purposely dropping the egg basket and breaking all the eggs in it on two dozen or so different occasions.

But let's say you do get two eggs every day. That's five dozen eggs per month which will end up costing $13.33 per dozen. Currently the store in town is selling a dozen Grade A eggs for $2.59. Hmm. According to my calculations, with costs of $67 per month your two hens would have to lay five eggs per day per chicken to make them equal the store price. Didn't I say this was a great way to teach people about the real world realities of agriculture?

I would think that just one day of laying five eggs would kill any hen and I would hope there is not a penalty to pay for handing back two dead chickens at the end of the rental period. According to the story I read the rentee is also given a quick tutorial on raising chickens. Excuse me! I have a friend who spent eight years in college studying poultry and even he is often baffled by the ever-perplexing poultry.

I was amused at another comment made by one of the franchisees when he said that kids could play with the poultry, as if they were a poodle. I've raised way too many chickens in my life and I have to admit that I was never able to teach a single one to roll over or shake hands. They might "sit" or "stay" and they often look like they are "playing dead". Actually, many times they really are. In that respect chickens are a lot like sheep in that they are looking for a place to die from the minute they are born.

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I think Rent-A-Chicken is a brilliant concept and I'm surprised a poultry plucker thought of it. I'm afraid though, as with any great American idea, it won't be long before the Chinese steal the idea and start renting out cheaper Chinese chickens. And why stop there? Next thing you know there will be Rent-A-Radish, Rent-A-Beet and Rent-A-Turnip franchises where urbanites will pay $50 for five seeds and when the tubers are ready they'll take half of them. It'll be Sharecropping for Dummies.

I'm not totally convinced that the education aspect of Rent-A-Chicken will be totally grasped either, especially by five year olds. "Hey mom, what's that gross thing coming out of the chicken's butt?"

"Shut up and eat your scrambled eggs."

This is such a great concept that I'm surprised a smart dairyman didn't think of it first. Because of the terrible drouth in the number one dairy state in the nation, I can envision dairymen in California who are tired of buying hay, renting out their Holsteins to gullible out-of-state folks with big back yards. But even this has the potential to turn from a good educational experience into a marketing nightmare.

Once again that same five year old looks at his mother milking the Rent-A-Cow and asks, "Yuck! What's that stuff coming out of the cow's belly?"

"Shut up and drink your milk. And eat those turnips!"

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