Save Money - Raise Chickens!

I caught this post the other day over at the Suburban Dollar via Bad Money Advice. Now we've gotten lots and lots of questions about our chickens, but no one had really quizzed us about the economics of our hens. After reading the doubtful post over at the Suburban Dollar, I thought to myself, "How do we come out on this deal?"

There is this stereotype that anything 'green' or 'organic' can't be frugal. The assumption is that you can't possibly come out even on the deal, let alone save money. We've always tried to challenge that here at Not the Jet Set. So, with some rough math, we hammered out some numbers. And I have to say, I was surprised at just how far we come out ahead on this.

Now first, I'll state what is commonly forgotten - the assumptions:

  1. We made the decision long ago, that we would not compromise on milk and eggs - organic or all-natural for us. Locally, these run at least $3 per dozen.
  2. A lot of the hard numbers at the Suburban Dollar was based on the amount of feed each chicken consumes and the cost of it. Our hens not only eat purchased feed, but also certain scraps from the table (we make them eat it outside). So while they may consume 1/3 lb. of food per day, ours 1/3 lb is comprised of feed, scraps, and bugs, and grass.
  3. The working theory is that our breed of chickens produce 4-7 eggs per week. I say theory as all of them are not yet producing. In fact, 2 of the 4 are producing and seem to be producing 6-7 per week. We know that production will slow in the winter, so we tried to pick an average number that was fair.
Now the numbers.

For the most part I'm going to reference my comment over at SD. A comment that sadly got no response.

The set-up
We only have 4 hens as it is the most the township will allow. Yes, we live in town and our neighbors had no idea we had chickens until the saw me building the coop. Speaking of which, I was able to build our coop mostly out of scrap materials. Total cost was $110.

Counting our Chickens
The chickens them selves were purchased from a local feed store. Typically, when you buy the chicks, they are so young that they need to be kept in-doors for a month or so until they are mature enough to survive outside. These were already 'of age' and were ready to live outside. They were $2.50 each for a grand total of $10.

Feeding the Birds
Our hens eat a lot of mosquitoes and ticks, which is a nice side benefit, as they have free run of our fenced in back yard. We haven't found a tick on the dogs since we got the hens. As I previously mentioned, they also eat some table scraps - fruit, bread crusts, they LOVE oatmeal. We also feed the hens an organic feed (locally grown and milled, just not certified organic). It's $12 for a 50 lb sack. It lasts us about 2 months.

The Total Production
So lets do some math. Our four hens, when all are producing, will pop out about 18 eggs per week (conservative). Since we bought them young, lets say we get 3 years of production out of them. Over those 156 weeks, we'll get 2808 eggs, or 234 dozen. Times $3 per dozen, gives you $702 worth of eggs.

The Total Costs
We've got $110 in the coop. The chickens themselves cost $10 for the four of them. Feed over the 3 years should run $216. Putting the majority of our costs at $336.

So the math does actually work, at least the way we are doing it. In fact we're doubling our money. Our cost per dozen is $1.43 for organic, free-range eggs. Coming from chickens that eat a ton of bugs, produce great fuel for our compost, and are really quite fun to watch. Plus at that cost, we can easily sell what we can't use, and turn a profit.

But as I said at the start - we really hadn't looked at this as a way to save money. We were unhappy with the cost of organic eggs at the store. But really we were doing this more for the experience and connection with the food journey. We were hoping that we weren't going to end up paying through the nose for these eggs. Turns out to be quite the opposite.


Muum said...

thanks for the analysis. We had chickens a few years ago (our state says you have to buy 5 chicks, minimum, crazy, huh?)

Ours are gone, now, but we keep thinking about getting a few more.

Abby said...

Thanks for the post! Chickens aren't permitted in our County, so they're a non-starter for us.

I do find that many articles discussing the costs of home gardening use the cheapest, conventionally grown item as a measure. And as anyone who has eaten an organic egg (ours cost $3/dozen) or fresh tomatoes and basil can tell you, the comparison doesn't work! There's nothing like food raised at home.

Kyle said...

Thanks for the mention, like I said in the post if you are looking for organic or free range it could very well benefit you to raise your own.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the breakdown! We have been contemplating getting chickens for a long time. I did find a local farm that we get free range eggs from for $2.50 a dozen. It is working well for us right now, but some day we still want our own chickens.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

We would love chickens, but we are not zoned for them at all (I read the zoning laws to be certain, but, unfortunately, they are not allowed).

Problem is, our family eats 18 eggs for breakfast--and my children are little right now! When I have 5 teenagers, we'll need a lot more!

If we ever get to have chickens, we hope to have 40.

AmyRobynne said...

So glad I found your blog -- saw a link at GRS and every post I see, we have more in common. We are suburban new chicken owners as of this May, also. As of this week, 5 of our 6 are laying. We have 3 Barred Rocks and 3 Americaunas, although one Americauna is laying brown eggs, so there's something funny going on there. We're $1500 away from the end of Baby Step 2 (after 16 months and $10000). How much applesauce did you can to give you a year's supply? I've got 35 pints in the basement, but I'm debating whether I should go back to the orchard for more apples while I can. I look forward to reading more!

Mrs. (not) the Jet Set said...

I'm glad you found our blog also! I hope that you are finding some useful info!

I put up apx. 50 quarts every year. Which is 4 1/2 bushels of apples. When our oldest daughter was little we did actually go through a quart a week because wanted it with every meal. Now we go through about 1/2 to 3/4 a week for plain eating. I now use it for an oil substitute in baking, for all the funeral dinners at our church and when I need a fast dish for a potluck. We enjoy having friends over for cookouts in the summer and we typically go through 3 quarts for this dinners.

I hope that helps! Please keep us informed has you work through your baby steps. I'd love to hear from you again.

Mrs. Money said...

We're looking into getting chickens but my husband is totally against it. I'm going to show him your post! :)

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