VOLENTE, Texas (KXAN) — Move on over, pet sitting: A new backyard coop-sitting business is spreading its wings in Austin.
Coop launched in the Austin and Dallas area in mid-summer as a one-stop shop for chicken owners looking to have their coops cleaned and roosters and hens watched while they’re out of town. The business has already garnered roughly 100 or so customers, with a waitlist for new appointments.
“If you have chickens, we’re going to provide cleaning services,” AJ Forsythe, co-founder of Coop, said. “We’ll come over and change the water, change your food, take a picture of your chickens — just do a welfare check on them if you’re traveling.”
Forsythe has personally owned chickens for roughly 20 years. He and Coop co-founder Jordan Barnes previously worked together at a tech startup and wanted to blend their own expertise with personal passion projects.
They said demand levels are overwhelming but not surprising given Austin’s growing interest in backyard chicken keeping. Urban chicken keeping was already blossoming in the region in recent years, with the city of Austin beginning to offer free classes and rebates for residents who purchased a coop.
“It’s just incredible life skills that we’re seeing,” Barnes said. “Really helping people reconnect with their food, their backyards, nature, and it’s really cool.”
While backyard keeping was already trending in the region, both Barnes and Forsythe said the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of grocery supply chains paired with the latest inflation impacts have skyrocketed local interest.
Both added they want urban chicken keeping, and its health and sustainability benefits, to be something accessible for anyone with a backyard. Currently, most store-bought eggs can range between 45-60 days old. Regulations require an egg to be packed within 30 days, and sold within 30 days after that.
With homegrown eggs, these are more nutrient-dense. Raising chickens also caters to backyard composting, which fertilizes residential soils.
“We believe in this term called ‘food sovereignty,’ where it’s the healthiest food you can get. You’re generating it yourself. You’re fertilizing your yard. You’re teaching your kids about how to take care of animals,” he said. “It’s honestly the most fun company I’ve ever been able to work on.”
“Food does not go to waste, and it just goes back into the cycle,” Barnes added.
As for the trajectory of Coop, Barnes and Forsythe said they want to lean into their tech backgrounds to build “the world’s best chicken coop” for consumers. In the meantime, they’re building up their workforce, with a handful of job postings advertised online garnering more than 30 applicants in the first few hours.
They also added they want to build up local resources, food delivery aides and collaborate with area hatcheries to create a more robust backyard keeping ecosystem in the Austin area.
“I think it’s really being able to connect with something and feel the dirt underneath your feet, and really just be rooted in your backyard agriculture, in your backyard farm for your family,” Barnes said. “[Customers] are really super passionate about all aspects of backyard chicken ownership, and they really care about all of the unconventional joys they bring.”