If you’ve got a few chickens, a cozy coop, and a little patience, you can begin enjoying home-grown eggs in just a few months
If you’ve got a hankering for eggs and enjoy a challenge, then may I suggest some home-grown eggs? Given economies of scale, you won’t be able to beat the commercial price for everyday eggs, but you’ll certainly be competitive when it comes to free range and organic eggs. Plus, you can’t beat the freshness.
Let’s explore the concept a bit.
Your first task is to build a chicken coop. If you’re keeping just a few
“chooks” (3-4 is the optimum for the backyard poultry farmer), you don’t need much: a cube four feet on a side is sufficient. You can purchase one from a supplier, or you can put one together yourself.
You’re probably not going to be able to do this on the cheap. You can save money on lumber by choosing from the culls in a home improvement store, but you’ll need welded-wire hardware cloth to protect your chickens from predators. This will be your biggest expense, but you can build a coop for around $100.
If you’re savvy, you can get chicken feed for as little as $10 per 25 pounds, but you’re more likely to pay as much as $15. Your average laying hen eats about 80-90 pounds of feed per year, so that’s about $35-50 per chicken annually.
You can supplement commercial feed with grass clippings and leftover kitchen waste (peels, rinds, greens, etc.), and the chickens will happily supplement their own diet with all the bugs they can catch. Meanwhile, they’ll provide some of the best fertilizer you’ve ever grown a rose in.
They’ll need a little grit for digestive purposes and some oyster shell for the calcium (which they need for eggshells). That’ll cost a buck or two more a year.
So How Much?
Suppose you have three hens and you spent $100 for a coop that will last three years, the laying life of a hen. Let’s be generous and put the feed/supplements cost up there at $150 per year for all three hens. Total costs: $550 for three years worth of eggs.
Once it matures, the average hen lays as many as 250-300 eggs yearly. A hen starts ovulating at about six months old; so assuming you started with chicks, you should get about 2.5 years worth of eggs out of them. Doing the math, that works out to around 2,000 eggs over three years.
Let’s be conservative and say you get only 1500 eggs. That puts the price at 37 cents each, or about $4.40 per dozen. That’s a lot higher than standard eggs, but less than organic and free range eggs, which average about $5.50 per dozen. See? Home-grown eggs are a pretty good deal!