Are chickens worth it?
Are the eggs and meat you get worth the cost of a coop, the cost of feed and the cost of time it takes to manage a flock?
I’ve been keeping chickens for almost a decade now and, despite my best attempts, thus far the answer is…
Well. I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I know my answer. Here are the big problems.
A Coop Costs Money
If you have predators, you can’t just throw up some 2 x 4’s and chicken wire. No, you need hardware cloth, impregnable walls and roof and maybe even a concrete floor.
If you’re lucky, handy and a good scavenger, you might spend about $200-$300 for a solid little chicken coop. If you’re not, you spend a couple times that.
I can buy farm eggs for $3.50 USD per dozen – but hey, I get them cheaply because I live in the third world. You’re likely to pay $6.00 per dozen.
That’s fifty cents an egg. That means the chickens in a $250.00 coop must produce 500 eggs to pay off their real estate.
But wait… there’s more!
Chicken Feed Has a Price
A 50lb bag of commercial chicken feed costs around $16.00. Each laying hen will consume around a 1/4lb of feed per day. In 200 days, you’ll need to buy another bag. If you have one bird, that is. It works out to about $0.08 cents of feed per bird, per day. That’s not so bad.
Your Time Also Has a Price
What is your time worth? $7.50 per hour? $15? $50?
If you were Donald Trump, it wouldn’t make sense to keep chickens unless you wanted to do so as a hobby. Chickens are certainly better company than Congressmen and have higher IQs, so I could understand if he did decide to raise a flock.
But we’re talking about your time. Let’s say it’s worth $15 per hour.
You need to build a coop, buy feed, let the chickens in and out, collect eggs, feed and water the birds, plus hunt predators.
Taking care of a flock doesn’t take all that much time, usually. Maybe a quarter hour a day.
That works out to 1.75 hours per week, or $26.25 of your time at $15 per hour.
At that rate, you could easily buy a dozen eggs every two days from an organic chicken farm… and keep your time.
And This is in an Ideal World!
You might decide keeping chickens makes sense for you even after these numbers… but what about deaths from predators?
Going out to the coop in the middle of the night after being woken up by the dying squawks of a murdered rooster isn’t fun. Discovering the fox that killed the cock has also murdered all your pullets is even less so.
At our place rats dug into the coop and killed our chicks:
A lot of people suggested building a stronger coop, poisoning the rats, raising the chicks off the ground, etc.
Yet that costs more money. Why would I spend the time and effort when I can just buy eggs from down the road for a few bucks a dozen?
I answered some of the commenters in this follow-up video:
So – are Chickens Worth It?
I’ve raised chickens for eggs and meat and I appreciate the manure and the work they do with composting; yet overall…
No. Heck no.
The “ideal” of chickens has always failed to mesh with the reality of chickens.
If I let the birds freerange, they’ll wreck my newly planted gardens and often end up as predator droppings.
If I box them up in a Gallus gallus gulag, they need more feed and produce lower quality eggs.
I’m sure there’s a way to keep birds that makes monetary sense, but I haven’t found it. I’m no Joel Salatin and we don’t even own our homestead here, so… considering tractors, coops, chicken runs, hardware cloth, feed, time… the numbers don’t add up.
A lot of us love the ideas of birds – or we like chickens the way we like our dogs.
I don’t want pets. I want eggs that are higher quality and cost less than the ones I can buy locally.
That isn’t happening, so the birds have to go. I’ll bet if you crunch the numbers on your own homestead, you’ll see the same monetary drain I do.
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