This just in: chickens cost money

Another online discovery this week: chickens are not cost-effective (a wonderful MetaFilter thread full of anecdotal, hands-on experience with backyard chickens). According to the posters on that thread, in the first year or so your home-grown chicken eggs cost about $4.50 each.

This is due to a) people spending upwards of $600 ($800 is par for the course) on their coops, b) the chickens being in their first and second years, so not enough eggs yet to mitigate the coop cost, and c) using the chickens only as egg sources rather than meat as well, d) there’s no way to quantify the value of their -ahem- output for the garden, or their work as pest-deterrent-bug-catchers.

Surprisingly, most people agreed that average chicken food and other necessities costs between $14-28 per month, and can be cut down lower if they are supplemented on kitchen scraps.

I am open to the reality that at the beginning, these chickens of mine will not be cost-effective. But I figure there are several ways of getting the costs down: a) build a coop and fence heavily dependent on recycled materials. I’m going to call around to the dumps to see if they have useable lumber and 5-foot fenceposts. Used shipping pallets could be cut down and made into shingles for the outside of the coop, or just plank siding if they’re in good enough condition. (Don’t worry Josh, I’ll make sure it looks nice). b) give them more time. Of course the eggs are going to be expensive in the first year if the cost of the coop hasn’t been defrayed yet. But a coop can last for years, and many families of chickens (and hundreds of eggs) will have lived in it by the time it eventually needs replaced. c) A free-range midsize chicken costs about $7-8 at the grocery store I think. So each time you eat a bird, you should subtract that from the total cost. d) ditto for the fertilizer. Every time you get a wheelbarrow-full, subtract $7-10 (the cost of a 25-pound-sack of chicken dookie) from your total.

Ooh, all that figgerin’ tweaked my inner spreadsheet-ophile.

Cost of coop and food over 24 months is $600+($14*24)= $936, less the benefit of loads of fertilizer once a month, starting at about 3 months is -$7*21=-$147, so the total cost is $789.

Then you’ve got to divide by the benefits of production, which if we only do eggs is $2208 [starting at 12 weeks, 4/week from 6 chix over 2 years: 4*6*92 weeks] equals:  36 cents per egg. Just 3 cents more than the grocery store organic eggs – and let’s not forget that at 2 years it’s time to start harvesting this batch of hens (because they’ll stop laying soon), so there’s an additional $42 ($7 per bird) off your initial cost.

Whew.  After all that I am royally tired of staring at my computer screen. Time to go knit and watch stupid TV while the little one naps.

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