Since the onset of the pandemic, families have become interested in renting chickens.
In the UK, hen rental searches have soared, and US chicken companies have faced surging demands.
Chickens not only provide eggs, but renters say they can also be a source of companionship and joy.
In one backyard in Kent, England, are two hens - Martha and Mrs. Underbite - who have been an unlikely source of joy for parent James Crook and his family throughout the pandemic.
Whether it's discovering an egg each morning or watching his 3-year-old daughter, Olive, hold a chicken, the animals have happily occupied the family's days spent in lockdown, James told Insider.
James isn't the only one with a newfound interest in these feathery creatures.
Representatives for Essential Living, a pet-friendly apartment rental company, told Insider that it saw a 900% increase in interest in chicken rentals in the UK between March 2020 and March 2021. In the US, some chicken companies have doubled their rentals, according to National Geographic.
Chickens not only provide fresh eggs, but they've become a source of laughter and a much-needed distraction throughout the pandemic, renters say.
Dog and cat adoptions didn't just skyrocket during the pandemic - so did chicken rentals
As early as March people were faced with the reality that lockdowns meant more time at home, and, as The Washington Post reported, they rushed to scoop up pets.
As people increasingly searched for pets over the past year, interest in renting chickens soared across the US, Canada, and the UK.
The typical chicken-rental model works by giving families a couple of chickens, a coop, and feed. The families can try out what it's like to care for the animals before making a long-term commitment.
"I've never seen such demand for hens as when the pandemic struck," Abby Johnson, the founder of HenPals, a chicken rental company in the UK, told Insider.
"Keeping chickens is such a rewarding hobby, and the benefits are all the more valuable during these difficult times," Johnson continued. "There's a wonderful sense of purpose and connection people feel from waking up in the morning and caring for their chickens.
Hens have provided one family with eggs, joy, and welcome distraction
James told Insider his family was looking for a reason to spend more time in their garden, so they landed on raising chickens. Before diving into the hobby, he opted to test the waters by renting chickens through HenPals.
HenPals is one of the many companies that started offering short-term chicken rentals during the pandemic, letting families rent a few egg-laying chickens and supplies for a short amount of time - typically a few months.
Like other chicken companies, HenPals' demand was greater than the supply. James had to put his name on a waitlist, and after a few months of waiting, Martha and Mrs. Underbite arrived in April 2020.
The family tried out the chicken rental for one month, loved it, and extended Martha and Mrs. Underbite's stay by a few more months.
James said the hens have been both a distraction and an educational tool for his family. His daughter is learning where food comes from, and the entire family is spending more time laughing.
Like any pet, chickens come with responsibilities. The family has to make sure the hens have healthy diets, a clean coop, and time to roam around. At night, they need to lock them up to keep them safe from neighbor predators.
"There's something quite idyllic about collecting your eggs and tending to your hens," James said. "I think they have a calming influence as well."
Read the original article on Insider