I was reading an article yesterday in the New York Times that at first seemed like something I would be interested in but made me realize what a ridiculous sounding thought it really was. The article titled “Keeping Their Eggs in Their Backyard Nests” talks about the growing trend of suburbanites starting to keep their own hens around for eggs or meat.
I have always thought this would be a pretty cool idea, I get some birds build a little coop and blammo free eggs. But this really hits on the fact that nothing is free:
- You have to buy the chickens
- You have to build the coop
- You have to FEED the chickens
Aside from the initial purchase, not much about having a chicken is actually cheap. According to some sources each chicken you possess can eat up to 1/3 lb of feed per day so for 6 chickens that is 14 lbs. per week. According to the NY Times article:
Lloyd Romriell, a married father of four in Annis, Idaho, recently received seven grown chickens and a coop from a relative. The hens lay a total of about two dozen eggs a week.
So at a conservative $1.40 per dozen you made $2.80 in one week of chicken raising but spent 14 lbs of feed where you probably paid ~$8-$9 for a $25 bag of feed. Add on top of that the costs to buy the chickens and the cost to build the coop and I am pretty sure you are looking at a loss. In addition you aren’t always going to get consistent production out of your hens, cold weather and poor nutrition could both affect the amount of eggs your hen lays.
Even if spreadsheets can demonstrate that raising chickens at home is not cost-effective, it may instill an invaluable sense of self-reliance.
What? Seriously folks self reliance to me is paying $1 for a dozen eggs at the grocery store as opposed to paying to raise, care for, feed, and house a flock of chickens for 2-3 years. Oh yeah I didn’t mention that, you are probably only looking at 2-3 years of good hard egg laying.
Mr. Walsh, the director of community outreach at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has 25 hens and, to cover his costs, sells eggs to a local restaurant for $6 a dozen.
I always knew there was a reason I didn’t live in New York, $6 a dozen those eggs better by gold plated. But wait this guy isn’t content to rip off the restaurant for eggs, he is now raising broiler hens as well. You know those ones that go on sale all the time for like .99 a lb. This guy anticipates paying $8 per chicken to raise them. I can get a 6 lb chicken for $6 and I didn’t have to 1.) wait and 2.) scoop up chicken crap.
The most poignant point in the entire article is:
“You can buy eggs in the grocery store cheaper than you can raise them,” said David D. Frame, a poultry specialist who works with the Utah State University Extension. “You’re not saving money by doing it.”
Now keep in mind, I am referring to regular old eggs, not free range or organic. In either of those situations it may actually cost you less to raise your own. Let’s face it though, egg producers are so efficient at popping out eggs that they do it cheaper than you could on your own.
What else do you think the recession has scared people into getting, even though picking it up off the shelf would cost you less? Do you raise chickens and see a cost benefit in doing so?