Guest Post by Michelle Mather
As you might know from reading
previous posts on this blog, Cam and I acquired 4 laying hens in May. We
had always toyed with the idea of having our own chickens, but we
didn’t know anything about looking after them and so we kept “chickening
out.” We both eat a vegetarian diet, partly for ethical reasons, and so
unless we were able to find eggs from happy, free-range chickens, we
just chose to do without. When we lived in the city I was able to get
organic eggs from humanely raised chickens at the local farmer’s market,
but the market was only open during the spring, summer and fall and so
we often had a hard time finding eggs during the winter months.
we moved to our home in the country and discovered a local organic
farmer with a flock of chickens. We could see for ourselves that his
chickens were not confined to small cages but were free to roam around a
large barn and in good weather they ventured out into a pen where they
could scratch and peck to their hearts’ content. He fed them organic
feed and so we made a point of purchasing our eggs from him.
in the fall of 2010 he announced that his current flock of chickens was
getting on in years and he wasn’t planning on replacing them, at least
not right away. There is another farm in our area that offers eggs from
free-range chickens but their eggs aren’t always easy to get. So once
again we were back to only eating eggs whenever we could find them and
doing without when our only choice was commercially produced eggs.
last May we made the big decision to get our own chickens. At first we
got two but then realized that our coop (which Cam made out of scrap
lumber and two pallets as shown here)
was big enough for at least 2 more. We also read that in case you lose
one chicken (to illness or a predator), it’s good to have “extras” so
that you won’t find yourself with one lone chicken in your coop.
“girls” are an endless source of amusement (and eggs!) Henrietta,
Penelope, Flora and Belle quickly settled in to life at Sunflower Farm
and soon began laying almost one egg a day each! In three days we have a
dozen eggs and so we get roughly two dozen eggs a week from our 4
chickens. They have slowed down ever so slightly now that the cold and
snow has arrived, but they are still producing and most days we get 3
eggs from them.
have given away quite a few eggs to our friends and family members and
everyone agrees – once you’ve had a farm-fresh egg from a happy chicken,
you can’t go back to the commercially produced ones. They just aren’t
in the same league!
Not only do they taste much better, they are
nutritionally superior too! Mother Earth News says that eggs from
chickens that are allowed to roam on pasture (instead of being confined
to cages as is the case for most commercially produced hens) have;
- 1?3 less cholesterol
- 1?4 less saturated fat
- 2?3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
(See the article here; http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx)
of my friends asked me if we are saving money by having our own
chickens. We didn’t acquire chickens in order to save money, but since
we were spending more than $5.00/dozen for organic, free-range eggs when
we were able to find them, I decided to do the math to answer my
The chickens eat a 25 lb. bag of organic feed
in about 9 weeks. So they roughly go through almost 3 lbs. a week.
Multiply that by 52 weeks and I estimate that our chickens eat about 156
lbs. of feed in a year. That’s 6.24 bags a year, so I’ll round it up
to 7 bags. Each bag of organic feed costs $23.00 for a total feed cost
Let’s say each hen lays 300 eggs over the course of
the year. With 4 hens, that’s 1200 eggs or 100 dozen. I was paying about
$5/dozen for eggs and so one hundred dozen eggs would be worth $500.00
So, $500.00 less feed costs of $161.00 means a profit of $339.00.
I found a neat Return on Investment calculator here;
I had plugged in my values (be sure to choose “dollars” from the pull
down menu since this is a British site) this is what it came up with;
“Your Poultry cost per year is $ 13.33
Housing cost per year is $ 0.00
Feed quantity required per year is 161 Kg for 4 Large Fowl
Cost of all feed products per year is $ 308.58
Consumables / other cost per year is $ 0.00
Total Cost per year is $ 321.92
No eggs sold. The egg value per year is $ 600.00 for 4 Hens.
Total Return value per year is $ 600.00
Your Total Profit is $ 278.08 per year.
Well done. Of course this profit calculation does not include your labour costs.”
came up with a different profit, but a profit nonetheless. Notice that
this calculator makes a point of stating that it “does not include your
labour costs.” Something tells me that if I came up with an hourly wage
for all of the hours that I spend just watching my feathered friends,
the ROI would be a much different figure!
note about these photos – These are not current photos. We haven’t
taken any recent photos of the chickens. It’s been cold and snowy here
lately and so it’s been hard to convince them to leave the coop!
daughter Katie read my blog and offered some photos that she took while
she was at home over the holidays. Thanks Katie! Now this is what it
looks like around here this time of year….
(Photos of chickens in the snow courtesy of Katie Mather)