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!