Raising Chickens for Free Eggs
If we raise them, I can sell them…that’s the message I gave to Dennis when he hesitated about getting layer hens. He worried that if I bought too many chicks we’d have an abundance of eggs with no way to get rid of them. Silly man.
Truth is people LOVE fresh eggs and with the bird flu going around out west, the cost of store bought eggs continues to rise and since it takes on average 148 days for eggs to get to your local store shelves, local eggs are just fresher. You can see and taste the difference. Free-range chicken eggs, like ours, are healthier for you, too.
We started off with eight chicks we ordered with a friend. Chicks can cost about three to five dollars each when you order them either on line or at your local feed store. You can also find pullets, older chicks that are a few weeks to a few months old but are not laying yet, for between ten and fifteen dollars. Chickens usually start laying around five months of age, so you will have to feed them for that long before you start getting eggs.
Start up costs can be steep if you do not already have some type of chicken coup. Shy away from pre-made structures. If you are handy with a hammer you can easily build your own coup for half the price. There are plenty of free plans online. Estimate roughly three square feet of coup space per bird. They will need nest boxes and roosts and you will probably want some type of fenced in area to keep predators at bay.
The average going rate for local eggs is between three and four dollars per dozen. With eight chickens we get on average six eggs per day. That’s about three and a half dozen eggs per week. Since it is just the two of us, we keep the half dozen and sell the other three to friends and family. We charge three dollars. That is nine dollars a week or thirty-six dollars per month.
A bag of chicken food ranges between ten and fifteen dollars per bag and lasts us about a month. We look for sales and call around to try and find the best deals and we will buy multiple bags when it is on sale. We go through about one bag of pine shavings per month at five dollars and fifty cents per bag and we buy mulch hay at a local farm for four dollars a bale, which lasts us a long time.
Relatively speaking, chickens are easy to keep. Their coup should be cleaned regularly and have good ventilation. They should have access to clean water and food at all times. Chickens love kitchen scraps and if you let them free-range around your farm, they will gladly eat ticks, flies, grubs and other insects.
You will want to think about replenishing your stock each year as egg production will diminish as your hens age. If you are up for it, older hens can be used for making stew and broth.
Okay, so not a “get-rich-quick-scheme,” but for eight chickens we get our own fresh eggs every week for free. We then make enough money from selling our extra eggs to pay for the food and shavings and still have a few bucks left over at the end of the month. After a few years, we should earn enough to pay back the initial start up costs.
There you have it. If you’ve ever thought about raising a few chickens, now’s the time to get started. There are several different breeds of chickens to choose from all coming with their own colors and designs making them not only economical but attractive additions to your farm.