Monday, December 1, 2008

Food for Thought: Investments

Good eggs (by good I mean fresh with orange yolks and good integrity between the membranes) at market or from the store cost you $4 to $5 a dozen. Actually, I have never found eggs at the grocery store I consider "good" by the above description. I have seen "good" eggs for $5 a dozen at the farmer's market, or usually from $3-$5 direct from a farm (and then you have to factor in drive time, etc).

A good laying hen costs you $2-$5 and lays 4-7 eggs a week - less in the winter, more in the summer. Let's say roughly 20 dozen eggs per year, per bird. So, 3 birds would more than supply a dozen a week, and 4 birds would have you set (assuming you are a practicing omnivore and eggs are not your primary source of protein).

From what I can gather, 3-4 hens will need, in addition to free range and food scraps, 50 pounds of feed every 3-4 months. It seems a bag of feed is somewhere between $12-$15 dollars. I imagine it would be cheaper if you bought bulk single grains and mixed them yourself.

Let's price it on the upper end: $20 for four birds, $60 for a year's feed, say another $30 for treats, bedding, etc. That makes $110 for 80 dozen eggs, or $1.38 per dozen. The sites I looked at priced the dozens higher based on additional costs which made it more like $2.40 a dozen (um...still cheap!). Of course, there is the start-up cost of building them some sort of roost and run, the costs of which will vary depending on how much you want to find/reclaim and do yourself. So the first years might not be a savings if you wanted to "go all out" and build a beautiful hen house and buy expensive retail feed.

It seems to me that excessive grain costs are silly, as free-ranging hens would really be eating bugs and scraps from your own table. Can you buy bugs to feed hens? I do not know. I also read of additional costs if you raise the chicks with heat lamps yourself. I know that animal rescue centers and Craigslist offer full-grown laying hens for $4-$5 a hen. Then there is no concern about chicks dying, nor accidentally getting a rooster, as well as no additional costs of raising and feeding animals who are not laying.

I do not think there would be such a strong urban chicken movement if there were not cost incentives, so it seems to me backyard chicken farming is a good investment.

Thoughts? Corrections? I am just looking into the idea of urban chickens and do not claim any level of expertise here.

4 comments:

  1. This makes sense to me though I haven't researched it at all yet either. What I'm also curious about is the cost effectiveness of a mini cow. The one article I read about that makes it seem much cheaper to raise your own organic beef and milk and it can be done on a small amount of land. Someday...

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  2. Oh yes, the mini cow! I have to do a little more research about that one (milk fat, etc), but I am rather sure it would be more cost effective given the prices for (not to mention availability of) good raw dairy products and grass-fed beef.

    Doesn't a back yard cow just sound delightful?!

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  3. Ahh, I too am thinking and researching this...it's tough to find good info. I did get a tip from my father in law though. He said if Raccoons are around we'll have to double fence the coup, adding to the start up cost. I'll have to keep researching cause I'm not ready to start or give up yet.

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  4. Meg - Thanks for the tip from your father. Keep researching! Perhaps we'll be able to delve into it - or run from the idea - together. I still have to find out how long we're hoping to living at this house, and then see if the landlady would let us have chickens. I am highly suspicious she will, if we do it well and perhaps check with the neighbors.

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Questions and Comments welcome! If you would prefer to contact me privately, please email mariannescrivner (at) gmail (dot) com.

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