The Economies of Keeping Chickens

When I first decided to build a chicken coop, there were 2 reasons. The first was that my daughter wanted chickens. The second was that the idea of fresh eggs was appealing and I thought it would be economical.

A recent article at the Washington Post talks about the price of eggs going up 30% since last year. It got me to thinking how much does it cost me to keep my hens?

Now, I originally spent about $300 to put together my chicken coop, not including labor and I’ve probably spent another $30 on the roofing material and the safety hinges for the nesting box roof (don’t want that lid slamming down on any kiddie fingers), and figure around $10 per hen to get them and raise them to the point they are laying eggs. That means my first egg cost me a whopping $370. Figuring that they each eat about 1/4 lb of feed and free range (There is a great web page here about grass fed chickens), that’s about 30lbs of feed a month, so I spend about $6 on feed for the month. I estimated that I get around 5 eggs per week from each hen (Although in reality they’ve been laying every day like clockwork!), and there are 4 weeks in a month. So I should get around 80 eggs a month. That means if I had stopped after the first month, each dozen would have averaged about $56 (now that’s some expensive eggs!)

Breaking out the Excel spreadsheet, I can see that if the national average is $2.17 per dozen, it only takes me about 41 months before I reach the break even point of buying vs. raising my own. However, these eggs are much better than store bought. I’ve seen some of the specialty eggs from farms that boast free range and humane treatment going for around $6 a dozen. If I were to buy my eggs at that price, I reach the break even point a little after 10 months.

So what’s the message here? Prices will only keep going up. Granted, my feed bill might go up as well, but it’s costing me about 90 cents per dozen eggs in feed.

( (30 lbs of feed / 80 eggs) x ( $12 / 60 lbs of feed) ) = $.075 per egg

Even at double the feed price, it’s still less than buying a dozen factory raised eggs from the store.

Plus, they make great pets, my daughter loves to play with them, and they all get plenty of exercise running around the yard. It’s a win-win situation!

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