One of the first questions people ask me when they hear I have a flock of chickens in my backyard is, “Are backyard chickens worth it?” Here are some other questions that I am asked and a number of reasons I give people who ask me.
Is raising chickens cost-effective?
This is a difficult one to answer, to be honest as there are a series of overheads involved, many of which you can reduce depending on how much time you can commit to the project. For example, I was lucky enough to stumble across a stack of pallets in a cousins farm one day, and it inspired me to build my chicken coop. A few weeks later, I had a coup capable of housing six chickens comfortably. This cost me around $20 in screws and a few hours of free labour. So I was off to a good start.
I bought eight chicks for $3 each, as research had told me it was unlikely all would live to maturity. I was right 18 weeks later my six fully grown chickens were ready to start laying, and I also installed a webcam in the corner of the coop so the kids could watch them grow from the comfort of their own home. Cost of chicks $24, pretty cheap so far.
My chicken average around 5.5 eggs per week, they tend to lay more eggs in summer and Autumn as the weather is better. My girls are not big fans of the cold and rain. So I get three dozen eggs a week, I give a score to my Mum and Dad, and we consume the rest, between baking and cooking. A dozen organic eggs in the local farmers market cost $6. I am saving $12 a week.
We also feed our chickens scraps from the table, saving significantly on feed costs. We want to keep our eggs as organic as possible for I do spend around $400 a year on organic chicken feed. I also keep heat lamps in the coop during the winter nights.
It’s difficult to know how much this costs, but it is on a night saver meter, So I estimate $30 a month. I offset this cost by building my coop on wheels so I can move it around the backyard, which allows me to use the chickens as pest controllers and organic fertilizer. I took before, and after pictures of the back lawn, the difference in the quality of the grass was terrific, I believe a couple of the girls quite like eating the weeds that crop up now and then.
I know I could save a lot of food. I let them range entirely free for forage all over the yard, but there are too many predators in the area and having to explain to my daughters if they come home and one has gone missing is not something I have had to do yet. But I know it is in our future. They are getting a little older (both girls and ladies).
We also use chicken droppings to fertilize our greenhouse, so we also save money there.
All in all, I think we break even. But as you will see later in the article, we are gaining so much more than just a few extra dollars in the bank.
Is it cheaper to raise your own chickens?
My chicks cost me $3 a pop, $24 for the eight initial ones.
But you can spend a lot more depending on the age and the breed. Some people don’t want to wait six months for an egg, and they buy more mature birds. Discussing this with other backyard bird owners has given me the following stats.
- Chicken can cost anything from $3 to 33 dollars ahead
- People like myself build our coops, but on average people tend to spend around $500.
- Feed costs around $15 a month Sunday costs another $10 a month
Please note the cost may vary on where you live and the laws regulations surrounding keeping chickens. Between my parents and I, we are saving $18 a week on organic eggs.
That’s roughly $1000 a year. We do like eggs, so far, we do believe that it is cheaper to raise our chickens. We have heard of people buying six mature chickens and finding them all dead the next morning. Out of pocket and heartbroken before the journey even begins.
How many chickens do I need for a dozen eggs a week?
My chickens will on average lay five eggs a week, sometimes more sometimes less. If you want to guarantee a dozen eggs a week, you will need three chickens.
Are backyard chickens funny and educational? (why you also might consider keeping chickens)
Many people do not know a lot about chickens, such as they have a fantastic memory, and they can recognize over 100 different faces, be they animal or human. They are known to love playing and even dream in their sleep. They are among the best mothers in the avian world, they turn each egg over 50 times each day and also talk to their chicks.
They also have a hierarchical structure in the brood, and this is a strict social order that has to be adhered to. My wife and kids and I love spending time with our ladies. They are fascinating to watch, observing how they interact with each other is one of the highlights of our day
If the reasons given above was not enough, here are a few more.
I know we touched on it, but I felt it worthy of repeating, we eat the most amazing organic eggs every week, my wife loves the fact that she never has to worry about the kids not having eggs for breakfast or if I want to bake, there are always fresh eggs available. I also love the fact that I can give a dozen to friends and family who pop over.
Lawyers who are bred in cages eat a diet of cottonseed, soy and corn, three of the most prominent GMO crops in the world. If you pay heed to the old saying that ‘We are what we eat’ you will never touch an egg that comes from one of these hens, never mind feed it to someone that you love and treasure above everything else in the world.
I try my best to limit the amount of antibiotic laden engineered food my kids get to consume. In my forties now, I struggled with my weight for many years, eating all the wrong things, and nobody stopped me. I refuse to let that happen to my kids
Organic eggs contain over seven times the Beta Carotene and Vitamin A, and more than double the Vitamin E than free-range eggs. Battery eggs contain a shockingly low level of essential fatty acids and Omega 3 all of which are important for positive mental health, healthy eyesight and maintaining a healthy heart. They produce an incredible 292mg when compared to the 0.0033mg in free-range eggs.
Save a few chicks from a life of cruelty.
My kids love the fact that they can eat comfortably in the knowledge that they are eating an omelette that is entirely free from the cruel world that battery hens live in. Many people are under the illusion that they are helping Chickens when they only buy free-range eggs, but the difference between what our vision of free-range means and the actual reality is stark. Less than 1% of the total chickens in the US are genuinely raised free-range, as opposed to the numbers the industry boasts.
Free a battery hen
If you don’t want to wait for chicks to mature enough to lay, might want to consider saving a battery hen. Nearly 300 million of these are butchered every year. Many are only a few years old, but they are no longer as productive as the younger ones, so they are culled. It’s all about the bottom line. An online search will reveal all the information you need to do this successfully. Save a life, become a hero by offering one of these an experience beyond their wildest dream(remember chicken dream too)
A source of organic fertilizer
For anyone who grows their organic food, having a constant source of high-quality organic fertilizer is a bonus. Classed as being one of the highest yielding manures in the world, it produces impressive results. If you are proud of your garden or your greenhouse chicken fertilizer can be very helpful. It also makes your garden more sustainable.
My six hens produce more than enough fertilizer for both our greenhouse and yard every year. We are also in the process of building a vegetable garden, so we are increasing our composting, and we add the Chicken droppings to it.
Make use of the eggshells.
Eggshells are full of calcium, and these can be very beneficial to your garden soil, it moderates the soil acidity. It would probably take a year’s worth of eggshells to make an impact on our whole yard, but I use them in the soil mix for my organic Tomatoes. They respond well to the crushed eggshells and show less sign of rot and blossoms.
Keep some pests at bay
If you can safely allow your chickens to wander the backyard, you can potentially shelve any chemical bug killers or pesticides you used to need. My six chickens are more than up to the task of ridding the areas of slugs, ticks, beetles and grasshoppers, to name a few. My wife’s roses have never been healthier since we secured the backyard as best we could.
Reduce food waste
Over 17% of the trash sent to landfills nearly 29 million tons are made up of food scraps, and yard waste makes up more than 33 million tons. Chickens provide a great way to deal with both.
Chickens will make short work of most kitchen scraps, pasta, fruit, cooked beans, bread, vegetable peels are just some that can go on that list. I have never fed them any animal products, it just felt wrong, so far the diet seems to be working all six are still laying, and staying fit and healthy.
Cut out the weeds
As I already pointed out that chickens are a great pest controller and source of manure. But even better they love eating weed seeds, so many of the invasive weeds that we had issues with last year are now gone. They scratch around and eat any weed seeds that are blown into the yard.
Good for your mental health
Most people are aware of the benefits of owning dogs and cats; chickens could be the pretenders to the throne for the best therapy animal. They are already being researched as being potentially beneficial to older adults and autistic children.
Early results have shown that chickens are great companions for kids with autism. They respond well to the need to feed and care for them. They help create a level of independence in children, preparing them for living skills that they will need as they grow older.
Chickens have also been used as an adjunct therapy for patients suffering from psychiatric disorders such as dementia, and they are thought to have a calming effect because of the way they move around, socializing and pecking all the time.
They are highly entertaining
Chickens are incredibly intelligent, and they all have roles to play in the broods pecking order. Watching this dynamic develop gives my family the chance to watch each chicken’s personalities grow as they strive to find their place in their society.
Last but not least, they are cheap
Yes, unless you choose to build your own coop, there will be some startup costs. But once that is out of the way, our ladies are pretty low maintenance. The biggest pain is getting them back into the run when they don’t want to go. But as a family, we have that down to fine art at this stage. Over the last few years out minimal startup cost has been repaid ten times over.
As keeping chickens is becoming more and more popular, there are entire communities fully dedicated to the raising of backyard chickens. A simple search online will introduce you to thousands of like-minded people, if you need some advice or help you can always refer back to this website as we will endeavour to continue to publish helpful articles as often as we can.
We will offer insight, tips and tricks to make raising chickens as easy as possible. Explaining to people why you chose to keep chickens is always a great topic of conversation.