What do I charge in eggs for accommodating neighbor's hens?
June 3, 2012 4:28 AM   Subscribe

Chickens and Hens: A neighbor wants to keep 6 chickens on my land. What is a suitable rent in terms of eggs? number? % of lay?
posted by priorpark17 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you live by yourself and don't eat many eggs, ask for whatever you think you'd eat normally - three or four eggs a week? Otherwise I'd ask for a percentage rather than a number, otherwise they might get resentful if the chickens stop laying so much and they end up having to give you all their eggs. I wouldn't ask for more than 1/6, i.e. one chicken's worth. And from experience with friends with chickens, that probably means you'll get three or four eggs a week.

You might want to ask for more than just eggs as a "rent" if the land you are keeping them on is useful to you otherwise - chickens will kind of destroy it, and if the neighbour isn't careful about how he/she feeds them, the leftover feed around the place might attract rodents. Which all means you might not feel you are getting your "money's worth" if your only benefit is a few eggs.
posted by lollusc at 4:41 AM on June 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Definitely take land damages into account. I had chickens in my backyard before and they ripped up all the grass in their pen (not that small); the grass didn't grow back properly until a few years after, long after the chickens were gone.
posted by bluelight at 4:56 AM on June 3, 2012

Do they want to let the chickens free range on your land or will they be in a pen?
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:20 AM on June 3, 2012

That's also a lot of poop. I only have three and the amount of poop and flies (and noise from 7-9am) is astonishing. I'd ask for at least an egg a day.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:21 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Think carefully about this. Chickens, especially in an urban type setting are a LOT of bother. When they are yours, there's the psychic payback of "back to nature", or whatever. When they're just boarders the joy may be lost in the poop, the smells, the noise and the constant presence. (Sounds like other peoples' grand-babies you can't send home.) And, be aware of possible issues with the governing body. I assume there's a reason they don't want to/can't keep them at their place. Be sure you consider why that is. If privacy is a factor for you, consider that someone needs to search about every day or so to find the eggs.

If a few eggs a week is your motivation, eggs really aren't that expensive, although fresh eggs are wonderful. Go to your farmer's market. If "good neighboring" is primary, I wouldn't be surprised to see the experience sour your relationship rather than assist it.
posted by uncaken at 6:08 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

They'll have to clean out the chicken house so please consider asking questions such as:

How often will they be cleaning the chicken coop?
Where will they dump the poo/straw/bedding after cleaning? Is it going in your yard?

Chicken houses smell, especially in the high heat of summer. Are you prepared to be okay with this? I suggest you go visit someone who has a few chickens to find out.

What assurances do they have to protect their coop against predators?

Sure, it's not so much your problem if predators eat their chickens, but as lollusc said, it might attract rodents as well as any of the following predators, depending on your area, which may be a nuisance to you or a danger to any outside animals you may have:
stray cats, wild dogs, coyotes, snakes, rodents, raccoons and opossums (which will then go through your trash or bird feeders), bobcats, cougar, bear, foxes, weasels/stoats, and thieves of the human kind. Remember, everything with a tendency toward eating meat will eat chickens or their eggs.

And yes, figure out their feeding and housing plan. Are the chickens going to be free range, in a permanent pen, in a little travel-about-the-yard home? Are they going to have to install fencing or a house which may require digging up your yard and/or installing concrete for the posts? How long will building this chicken house and pen take? Are they going to be leaving materials in your yard afterward? Are they going to be in your yard when you aren't home, and are you okay with that?

Make a mental note that this isn't just a chicken project. This may be a small construction project, a project to keep away livestock thieves, a project to feed and water and tend to these chickens EVERY day at least 2 to 3 times a day, a project to keep the chickens healthy, a project to keep the other neighbors happy, etc.
None of which, btw, should involve you unless otherwise specified, on paper, with schedule and pre-determined compensation.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:30 AM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

You should also negotiate up front if you're going to get roped into caring for them when the neighbour is away.

(Of course, the concerns raised in the answers here may be irrelevant if, say, you keep chickens already and the neighbour is asking to keep their chickens in with yours.)
posted by hoyland at 7:06 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Suitable rent is whatever the value of the land is as rental property and has nothing to do with the number of eggs produced on it.

Whether letting your neighbor use your land for free (which is essentially what you're doing for a half dozen eggs per week or whatever) is really a good idea depends on a lot of things like the stuff already mentioned by other commenters.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:48 AM on June 3, 2012

Do you keep a garden? If so, in addition to the eggs, said neighbor must deposit the poop from the weekly coop scooping into a your compost bin. Chicken poop is top notch stuff for compost.

Do you have a grassy yard? A chicken tractor (basically a small easily movable coop) means you can let them work over a different spot in your yard every day or two. They'll trim the grass and fertilize it, and then you move them the next day. That can also be a payment in addition to eggs.

I have chickens. Care consists of daily feeding, watering, and a weekly scoop out. They don't make a stench unless the poop actually gets wet. They do need a secure enclosure. We're lucky that we don't have many raccoons out here, but if you have them, they are experts at getting to chickens. I would inquire what your neighbor has in mind for an enclosure.
posted by azpenguin at 9:04 AM on June 3, 2012

I think there is a large risk that some complication will make this chicken coop a problem for you. Construction projects, land damage, angry neighbors, predators, noise, smells, waste, vacation requests for care, moving, finding out it's illegal, ...

On the other hand, maybe you really like fresh eggs or local food, or you don't trust the eggs labeled "free-range" at the grocery store. Maybe the idea of having chickens on your land fills you with a wholesome feeling. Those might be good reasons to do it. Wanting to be nice to your neighbor is definitely not a good reason to do it. You must really want chickens on your land.

24 eggs/week is a reasonable guess for 6 chickens. So if you requested a dozen you'd be asking for half. Your neighbor would probably be unhappy with that. So maybe 6 or 8 per week is as high as you can go. Weigh that against the possible troubles of the coop. Personally, I don't think it would be worth it.
posted by scose at 11:13 AM on June 3, 2012

I want to echo and expand upon what azpenguin already said. I have four chickens and four ducks. Last year, I had eight turkeys, too. Your use of the word "land" tells me that you measure the size of your property in acres, not square feet. (Or perhaps I'm inferring too much; this might be something that doesn't cross the Atlantic successfully. :) Assuming that you do live in a semi-rural area, then I think that this could actually be a great arrangement.

Our poultry have been wonderful for our pasture—their scratching and manure have made the grass thick and green. We use electromesh fencing, which we move every couple of weeks. (We're looking to get another few dozen ducks, and intend to ask a neighbor if we can use their land.) If you have wooded land, you might insist that the chickens be kept there, rathe than on grass. Pasturing chickens—in the absence of a symbiotic rotation system—is dumb. Chickens natively live in jungles. They love scratching in leaf litter, and have no interest in grass. Our chickens and turkeys adore being in the woods, but are bored when in pasture. That way, you can eliminate concerns about how often these half-dozen chickens are being moved around, to avoid wrecking your pasture.

To answer your question, I think you'd want rent to not be as % of lay, because you're not an investor. Whether or not your neighbor is a decent micro-scale poultry farmer, he's using your land just the same. Instead, I think you'd want to base it on an absolute number of eggs. Assuming he doesn't have a super-laying breed like an australorp, you can figure on 4–5 eggs/bird/week 8 months out of the year, and 1-2 in the winter. If I were in your neighbor's shoes, I would not think twice about giving up a half-dozen eggs each week in exchange for using your land. From your perspective, you might consider how many eggs that you're actually going to use. If six/week is how many you need, then there's no point in asking for more, is there? :)
posted by waldo at 12:34 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and don't take any roosters! You don't need a roo to have eggs.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2012

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