I keep a tally of eggs laid. Over the last year, the number of chickens in my flock has ranged from 12 to 16. Some were too young to lay, some too old. All molted and took a break. Some went broody, sat in a nest and refused to move. They didn’t lay for weeks. When it got too hot they went on strike. They don’t like to lay when it’s too cold. Despite all of that, we collected 1,270 eggs. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But, that averages out to only 3.5 eggs a day. Not a great number for how many hens I keep, but certainly enough to keep us in omelets and pudding.
It costs about 8¢ day to feed and bed each hen, which comes to just over $400 a year. Divide that by the number of eggs, and each egg costs 30¢. If I were to buy organic eggs at the market, I would pay the same amount. However, add in the cost of the hens, the equipment, medicine, egg cartons, electricity, sand for the run when it gets muddy, fencing, cabbage and cost of the pet sitter when we go away…this is only a partial list… then again, let’s not add that in!
I could do it differently. I could own all Golden Comets, wonderful, productive hybrids. I currently have two, Philomena and Agnes. They each lay an egg every day, without fail, even when the weather hits well below freezing. They are young; this is their first laying season. They’ll keep this up until they are 18 months old, when they’ll molt. If I had a flock of 16 of these pullets, I’d be getting almost 3,000 eggs a year, and the cost of each would be less than half what I currently shell out. At the end of two years, they’d be turned into soup. I have absolutely no problems with farmers who do this. In fact, I eat eggs and hens that come from such farms.
But, I have a small flock of many breeds. Each is an individual. By the time their two productive years are up, they’ve become a part of the warp and weave of my life. I keep the old girls around. Marge is seven years old, and she’s been cackling and commenting on every going on for the last six years. That’s worth 8¢ a day to me. My new Polish hens, Tina and Siousxie are outgoing, silly birds, but they’re ornamental and each egg will be a surprise. They pay for themselves with their personalities. Worth every penny. I’m fortunate that I can afford it. I’m also appreciative of the farmers who farm to support their families and do it differently.
Here’s to a productive 2010 – however you define productive!
I am with you Terry! They are such a part of my daily life that I figure the $ is just part of the deal….I am going to look for some Golden Comets! WOW! You have SNOW!!!!! Such a big deal to us California folk! Have a wonderful week! Donna
I agree with every word. The enjoyment I get on a Spring, Summer or Fall Saturday or Sunday morning sitting outside sipping coffee and watching my chickens is priceless to me. Better then any tv show, computer time or newspaper.
I notice you didn’t mention winter :)
See, things get hairy when you start talking about the costs. I originally got a few chickens for the fresh eggs. But it didn’t take long to realize the joys of chickenhood. I now have 9 roosters and 31 hens of all different breeds. I don’t eat my own birds. I’m not against it, by any means. I would eat one. But I am not about to kill my own birds when I’m going out and feeding them every day. This past week I’ve had to break ice out of their water twice a day! No, if someone else wants to kill and clean them that’s fine and dandy. But I will stick with egg gathering, thank you. I do enjoy my chickens (and pigeons). And that’s something you can’t put a price on.
Happy New Year to all!!
Thank you for the wonderful updates on the animals, the egg count for the year, and the new store!!
Question- I’ve noticed that Pip and Caper pretty much stay in the stall, is it just too cold, or is it too hard for them to move in the snow with their shorter legs? Also got a kick out of watching them “help” you muck the stall yesterday!!
Yes, the goaties are such a “help.” Did you know that you could spell goat, C-H-A-O-S? Caper managed to stand on two legs, on top of a domed bin, and get his front hooves caught in a cord. I’ve posted how tidy my barn is – but that doesn’t matter to a goat!
The goats are plenty warm, but they do NOT like to get wet. Horrors. However, they do like to stand in the stall with their noses sticking out.
You are a very good for your small animals. Congratulations!
I came across this website recently while looking for another and now I look forward to spying on the hens a little each day. I don’t seem to catch the goats much but the hens are always moving about. The red one is gorgeous. And I laugh a little each day at the ones with the poufs. I’ve read the animal bios but can’t seem to remember each name. Thank you for giving me the pleasure of watching your pleasure. :-)
You are welcome. Part of the fun of having these animals is being able to share them with others. The pouffy hens do have comical personalities. They like to be where the action is and they are quite fond of the goats.
I noticed the lovely blue and green eggs in your collection. Do you still have some Ameraucana or Araucana’s?
No, I don’t. Those eggs were a gift from a friend in town. The photo was taken for a “Weekly Reader Magazine” article that will come out this spring. I’m excited that 6,000,000 children, educators and parents will hear about HenCam and learn about backyard chickens in that issue! (Remember “Weekly Reader”? It’s still going strong!) I’d like another “Easter Egger.” Will look for two at the Poultry Congress soon.
I adore your blog and have been sharing it with my second graders. They love the pictures of the bunny in the snow.
If you read “Tillie Lays an Egg” to the kids, and also tune into HenCam, I can post a hello message to your class on the HenCam home page. (I’ve also done this for whole schools!!) Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set it up.