Dallas Pair Launch Chicken-Sitting Business | Dallas Observer

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Got Chickens? A New Business Helps Tend to Backyard Flocks

The average hen lays an egg a day.
The average hen lays an egg a day. Courtesy of Coop
AJ Forsythe got into the chicken business quite unintentionally. While attending California Polytechnic State University he was walking through a market in L.A.'s Chinatown one afternoon and saw chickens about to be slaughtered. Instead of just walking by, he bought the birds, took them home with him on the bus and raised them in his house. Now almost two decades and many chickens later, he and his business partner, Jordan Barnes, created a business called Coop that is much like Wag for dogs.

It was during the big ice storm of 2021 that things came together for this eggy venture. While on vacation in Colorado, Barnes and Forsythe, who have been friends since high school in Dallas, got news of the record-breaking cold snap heading to Texas. Forsythe had a backyard chicken coop and needed to get back to tend to his flock. Once again, chickens pulled his heartstrings.
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AJ Forsythe's start in the chicken business took wing while he was walking through a market in L.A.
Courtesy of Coop
"It was like Planes, Trains and Automobiles trying to get him back," Barnes recalls. Forsythe caught a flight to Austin, then had to pay an Uber driver $650 for a nine-hour car ride to Dallas. That's love.

Barnes says chickens are like "little heat boxes," and the cold alone usually doesn't kill them, especially if they're otherwise healthy and the coop is properly prepared. But in extreme conditions, a lack of water because of frozen pipes and iced-over water bowls can be deadly. (We looked it up, and they can't eat enough snow to stay hydrated.)

All of this came after the two had successfully launched and then sold another online service-based business several years ago. Now they're working on Coop, which matches people who like to care for chickens with urban dwellers who have backyard flocks. The freelance chicken caretakers are called "tenders," and they can feed chickens, clean poop, water your plants and more.

And with the price of eggs, which are up 59% since December, a backyard chicken coop may seem more appealing. Barnes is certainly getting a sense of that; she is working out of an Austin office right now and has a big "Chicken Sitting" Coop company sticker on the side of her car. She says that everywhere she goes, she gets approached by people asking about the business.
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Jordan Barnes with tenders-in-training.
Courtesy of Coop
If you're pondering your own coop, almost every city in North Texas allows hens, just no roosters. The average hen lays an egg a day, so a four-hen flock (a good starting size) will yield about two dozen eggs a week. Barnes also points to their sustainability.

"Chickens are composting machines. Zero food waste. Their poop is some of the most nutrient-dense material on earth. Your backyard micro ecosystem thrives, your local community thrives and you forget you even have a disposal," Barnes says.

Next up for these feathered entrepreneurs is a smart coop — the Tesla of chicken homes. Cameras monitor activity around the coop, and if a predator approaches, owners are alerted. Doors automatically open and close. This project is still in the prototype and testing phase and is expected to be on the market sometime next year.

Barnes says the number one reason people get out of the backyard chicken business is predator attacks, which can be traumatic for young kids to witness. (Hawks gotta eat too.)

If you've pondered channeling your inner farmer and getting a backyard coop, the two offer some advice on their site. And if you want to plan a trip to the coast this summer, you can get a tender to check on your chickens while you're out of town; a basic chicken check-in starts at $40.

If you'd like to become a tender, you can apply on the site; all potential tenders go through a personal interview. Barnes says she can sense a fellow chicken spirit. 
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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