Pages

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Frugal Tuesday - Cost per Chicken for Eggs vs Buying


So, I got to thinking again the other day and you know how once I ask a question I have to find the answer. If you haven't guessed most of my questions are posed to me through conversations with Mountain Man. He is always asking me to prove to myself whether it is best to do things one way or another and since I love to learn it works out great for both of us. Today's question is this. How much does it really cost to feed chickens in return for eggs, is it really worth it or should I just buy them from the store or a neighbors.

My first thought is that it's a no brainer. I know eggs from free range hens are much healthier than anything store bought and I love having chickens around. Their funny antics keep me laughing and they produce wonderful high protein food for my family. What's not to love?

However as I try to set aside emotion to analyse this I keep coming up with more questions.  Did you purchase the chickens full grown? As one day olds? At about 5 or 6 weeks of age? Or were they hatched out on your homestead by a broody bird? Each age has a different price tag attached to it. The cheapest is to allow one of your hens to go broody and raise some babies for you. Barring that, the least amount of work is to purchase 5 or 6 week olds from a neighbor for about $4 or $5 each. For the sake of making it easier lets assume you did the last option and purchased 3 hens. If you want babies you will need a rooster as well which will add to the cost but if you don't the hens will lay eggs just fine without one. Lets just concentrate on the hens for now and if you decide to add a rooster the cost can be added on later.

Each adult chicken will eat approximately 1/4 pound of feed per day. A bag of purchased layer feed is 50 pounds and costs me approximately $35 (you may be able to get it cheaper where you live). That is about 17.5 cents a day per chicken. The average multi-purpose hen will lay approximately 260 eggs per year at peak performance.  It works out to $63.88 spent per chicken per year with a return of approximately 21.66 dozen eggs if you purchase all their food from a store. Remember this is also at peak performance without taking into consideration the feed to raise them to this level or for when they start producing less.

So, how much do you spend on eggs? The cheapest I can purchase them at the store is about $2.65/dozen which is $52.14 a year for the amount of eggs 1 hen will lay.  So, if I was to have chickens and purchase all their feed I am actually losing money to the tune of $11.74 per chicken. Of course I am getting all those lovely eggs and they are much better for me than the store bought ones. Also, since the chickens are free range they eat a lot of bugs etc in the summer thereby eating less purchased feed, and I give them all my kitchen scraps. Maybe in the end it works out to fairly even? But don't forget the extra's purchased such as oyster shells etc. Sigh.... OK.  It's not going to work out cheaper this way, so lets look at alternatives.

There IS a cheaper way to do it. I found this out while talking to my local merchant at a feed store. Most feed stores have a mix you can purchase that is specifically for supplementing and adding protein to grains such as wheat, corn, oats and barley. It is mixed in at a ratio of 7 to 1 depending of course on what type of grain you have on hand. One scoop of the purchased mix to 7 scoops of your mix of grain. While it is a little bit more expensive ($45/ 50 lb bag) it has a concentrated protein and is a LOT cheaper if you have farmers around who don't mind if you clean out the bottom of their grain bins for them. Free grain is always a good bargain and the hens certainly don't mind the leavings! By using this method I cut my cost down to just over $9 per year per chicken for feed. Not bad! Of course this depends on finding farmers who will allow you to clean out their grain bins for free. If I have to purchase grains in bulk from a farmer my cost goes up.

But wait! Can't you make your own mix? Sure you can, but it isn't always easy to find the grains necessary. Laying hens need about 18% protein in their diet. The grains grown locally here don't have the protein needed. Wheat is 12.5 % protein, corn is 9 %, oats is 14 %, and barley 12.3 %. So if you were to feed only grains they would not be getting enough protein except for in the summer if they can find a lot of bugs. However, if you have a worm farm and can supplement their diet, as earthworms are about 28% protein. Don't forget the whey! If you make cheese this lovely by product is loaded with protein. There is a great list of grains and their protein levels here as well as a wealth of information about creating your own chicken feed. Maybe you have farmers in your area who can supply you with cheaper alternatives.

The first eggs my chickens gifted me with. Yum!

So, what to do? Myself, I can easily get grain for next to nothing or for free but if I didn't live here I'm not sure. It works out to balancing what is good for you versus what is less costly. Myself, I will take the goodness every time if I can. But it sure is worth considering the options and doing a lot of research before just deciding to do it.

Also link in to Frugally Sustainable's Blog Hop.

15 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for the breakdown. As a suburbanite, I keep waffling between of getting chickens or just keep buying the organic ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sure is a lot to think about. :)

      Delete
    2. Do you buy organic PASTURED chicken eggs? That for me is the real thing to think about. "Cage free" chickens are just chickens that don't live confined to a small cage, but instead they live about one million chickens crammed into an outhouse where they are deprived of sun light to stimulate egg production. And "free range" chickens are little better off - they get a small pen to roam around in outside when they get tired of the cramped outhouse. Pastured chickens, on the other hand, such as the chickens you would be owning and raising, have space to breath and walk freely in the yard while providing you with eggs to eat. I'm not sure that the difference is meaningful to you or not, but for me that's the biggest reason to raise chickens to provide me with eggs.

      Delete
    3. costs fluctuate a lot based on locale as well. I live in the NY Hudson Valley and I will easily pay $5 for organic eggs - not pasture raised - at the grocery store. I can get them for $4 from a neighbor...

      Delete
  2. Nice breakdown. We are adding chickens to our family this year. It's nice to see the cost, while it might be more expensive I think you're right= it's worth it. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can tell you from experience of even getting free 4H chicks...the eggs are better in taste and quality...but expense wise...go to your grocer and buy...chickens are NOT cheap to raise...we did it for years with our kids...but make a great expensive project for anyone raising children and want to teach them responsibility. :) the feed is where it gets you...to grow a good chicken and a good egg producer its the feed! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the info! Our family is trying to be more sustaniable and one of our first projects discussed was buying chickens but couldn't decide what the cost difference would be. We use a lot of eggs so this information is going to be very helpful in our decision.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We did try having our own chickens, but for us it works out to be cheaper to buy them neighbors, especially the kids who raise them. I can get a dozen free range eggs for $2.00 otherwise the eggs are more like $4.00 at the farmer's market.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi there! I was surprised in a good way when I loaded this page of your blog. What was the leading reason the moment when you took a decision to organize a portal?

    ReplyDelete
  7. The pros of having chickens include physical and mental health benefits as well: getting more activity outside through feeding them, cleaning coops and runs, and gathering their eggs. This sort of benefit is priceless. I wouldn't buy store-bought eggs--or even farmer's market eggs--for anything now.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Where do you live? Seems like your economics are WAY off compared to our area. I own a feed store in the Houston area. Our bag of layer pellets is $13.50/50#. Store eggs are running just under $2 I think (I don't buy them, so I'm not sure). People who sell their mini-farm eggs typically get $3-$3.50/doz. So one solution is to raise/harvest more than you need if you can find someone to buy the surplus, sell the surplus, and that will fund the feed for the whole operation. Then you have eggs for free. Alternatively, you could get a job that pays minimum wage for a week and make enough to buy chickens and feed so the only "investment" you have is a week of work (plus your daily egg collection). Don't forget to add in your "salvage value" to use an accounting concept. The store bought eggs have no residual value. A hen, once they quit laying, can be processed into meat paying you back a little. Also, the chicken litter can offset garden fertilizer cost. And if you get intangible returns from watching or interacting with the chickens, there's that. Finally, as you mentioned, the quality of eggs are different.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, you are right on. I can't imagine buying free range (much less organic) eggs for $2.65/dozen. At our farmer's market, farm eggs (free range, but unspecified as to chemical status) go for $3.00 for smalls up to $4.50 for extra large. And I'd cut off my right pinky finger to have chicken manure for my compost pile. And while I'm a vegetarian, my dogs would love "salvaged" chickens for supper, and save me a bundle on fresh meat. Just a couple more years, and I can get out of the burbs and trade for some birds!

      Delete
  9. What does it cost to drive to the store? Its an 82 mile round trip for us! In for a penny, in for a pound. yes doing chickens means selling chicks, hens, eggs, slaughtering, using the manure in the garden as a great fertilizer, letting them into the garden to eat bugs, all of the above to break even monetarily, at a far better quality of life. I encourage everyone to recall their Ruskin, ...anything one man can make, another man can make cheaper and those who would purchase on price alone are their lawful prey...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I know this is an old thread but you're paying a ton for feed, I spend 23 bucks a month on 15 hens and its a family grain store that makes there own and its way better than purina and nutrina, I yield more eggs from it

    ReplyDelete
  11. Don't forget, you are also getting free range chicken meat. Here in Malaysia, just like free range chicken eggs, they cost almost 3 times more than the farm raised/produced ones. Additionally, they are much healthier, minus all the hormones.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...