I’ve been a renter all my adult life. This last place, owned by a friend, has been home for the past 10 years. It has been in this stretch of years that I acquired my chickens. As time has gone by the flock has ebbed and flowed peaking at thirteen. Currently I have six hens.
I’ve been feeling the restless stirring of a move in the back recesses of my mind, but didn’t really know what that would look like, or when it would come about. However, through a set of circumstances beyond my control (and foreseeable knowledge), that time is now. Although it’s taking me by surprise and has me scrambling more than just a little, when the dust settles, it will all be good.
However, it’s opened my eyes to the plight of renters with chickens, which isn’t something I’ve thought about before. Finding a rental that will allow my hens (and cat) to tag along has been tough. More than tough, pretty much impossible. I live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon: home of green people, organic lovers, and chicken owners. Heck, even goats are allowed in the city limits. We’re a chicken hugging tribe. At least that was my belief, until I tried to find a new chicken-hugging landlord.
Needless to say, it’s been a long and stressful two months. In the end, I’m moving outside the city where I’ll be renting a property shared by some goats (and their humans). Although there are many things about this place that are nearly perfect, it’s not my ideal situation. I’d hoped to stay in the city, not live 30 minutes out. But for now, I’m headed out (to what feels like the STICKS) where I will re-group and (hopefully) be back to the city soon, this time as a home owner (or tiny house builder or something) with my rag- tag caravan of animals tagging along behind.
I’m not sure how many chicken owners are out there that are also renters. I’m sure I can’t be completely unique, even if I’m part of a minority. So for those of you out there who could someday be in this same position, here are some things I’ve considered in this last 60 days:
- Pay attention to the zoning laws. This is a no-brainer, I know, but when you’re in a metro area, one street to the next might be a different town and therefore different laws. For instance, Portland proper will only allow 3 hens without a permit. (With a $31 one-time fee you can apply to have more chickens, but you also have to get permission from all neighbors within 150 feet.) Where I live, just a few blocks over, we can have as many as we want, even roosters. In Milwaukie, just down the street a ways, there’s a limit of 50. I’ve been looking at places in all these areas and more.
(By the way, even if the town allows, make sure you’re not moving into an HOA that won’t let you bring your chickens. Do your research. It will save you a lot of trouble later.)
- Build portable. Yes, yes, I know. This also goes without saying. Because I’ve lived where there’s no limit to the number of hens I have, and because I didn’t know what I was doing when I built my coop, and because I didn’t follow any plans, I, um, sort of overbuilt. (Those adorable city coops that hold three cozy little hens? Yes, I love them. That is NOT, however, what I have.)
Oh, and because I didn’t know what I was doing, I overcompensated with my lack of skill, planning and knowledge with boxes of screws. So, it’s not really coming apart. There’s no way I could practically move it. This, of course, presents another real problem: I finally found a place my hens can go, but the coop can’t come with us. Drat!
- Network like crazy. Landlords seem to be more open to out-of-the-ordinary ideas if they have a personal connection to you. I’m headed out to the country (which I found with a personal connection) to a spacious acreage already containing goats, but no chickens. Through talking to the landlords-to-be and finding out we actually have THREE people in common, suddenly the door swung wide open for a flock of hens to move out with me. It really is who you know sometimes. Thankfully I know some keepers.
- Move your flock at night. Mine aren’t moved yet (remember I have the coop issue to deal with). But once I get their new space set up, I will come fetch them with a big box, at night, when they’re already groggy and a bit disoriented and mostly blind. The theory behind this is that they will wake up in the morning somewhere new and be happier about it than if they arrived during the day. We shall see about this and I will most definitely keep you posted. I’m anticipating them being a bit mouthy, regardless. They aren’t too keen on change. (Me, neither, so I sympathize with them.)
In the meantime, my friend has graciously allowed the hens to stay for a while longer where they’ve lived their whole life. Her son will take care of them and I’ll check in on them weekly.
- Last but not least, having as much lead time as possible to find your new digs will help. The Portland area is a brutal place to find a rental even without the extra hassle of chickens. I read a report last week that said Portland is the second tightest rental market in the whole nation right now, thanks to the 75,000 new folks that moved in during 2013 (I hope they came because of the chickens). But regardless of where you live, moving hens to a new rental is a bit more complicated than a hen-less move. It might take some time (or creative solutions) to get it all to work out.
It’s been a tough two months for sure. I’m moving my household, but the blog will continue on. The next month or so might be a bit harried, but I’ll be back on track before too long.
I’m curious: are there any chicken owning renters out there? If so, what have you experienced in the rental scene? Have you had trouble finding a place to live with hens in tow? Do you have other suggestions to add?