Year End Accounting

I’ve never expected my hens to be an inexpensive source of eggs. There’s no economy of scale here. I buy laying hen pellets, a fifty pound bag at a time, from the local feed store. Pine shavings, scratch grains and oyster shell also comes bagged and purchased from the same source and hauled home in my car. Up until this year, I’ve never kept an accurate accounting, and so I’ve never known how much I’ve spent. Willful ignorance.

So, in 2010 I decided to keep a running tally of the cost of keeping my girls. I started with 16 hens, but by year’s end was down to 13. The flock consisted of three bantams, two mid-sized flighty Polish and the rest standard. Most were middle-aged or elderly. Only four were under two years old, in their prime-laying years. I have a mix of breeds, mostly old-fashioned hens, which means they aren’t egg-laying machines. They go broody. They have long molts. They shut down in darkness and in cold. Despite all of that, my little flock of under-achievers laid 1,319 eggs in 2010.

Laying hen pellets cost about $13 per fifty pounds. That comes out to less than 27¢ a pound. No wonder the term chicken feed is synonymous with cheap. But, it does add up. I bought 650 pounds of the stuff last year. Poultry raising texts tell you that a hen eats 1/4 pound of pellets a day, but do the math (I’ll spare you) and it turns out that my hens ate less than half that, I think because they get plenty of other foods. I toss them a lot of kitchen scraps, they have access to the compost, and I let them out to forage when I can.

When the pellets, the oyster shell, scratch grains, some supplemental greens bought in winter, and the pine shaving were added up, I was surprised at how little I spent. $270. That’s not much for how much pleasure these hens have given me. It’d be worth it even without the eggs. But, I did get eggs, over a thousand of them. Doing the math (again, I’ll spare you) each egg cost about 21¢. Or, $2.46 a dozen. A dozen organic eggs at Whole Foods Market sell for over $5. I had enough eggs to sell some at the local farmers’ market. I brought in $83 this year. My precious “egg money.” It doesn’t go into the equation.

So, I’m feeling rather flush right now, as if my girls and I managed to put the household finances into the black. Then again, I also added to the “infrastructure” with new waterers, bought fly paper and medicines, and paid to have the fencing repaired. I also shelled out to have a carpenter install a cupola to the HenCam barn to improve ventilation. Let’s not count that, shall we? Oh, and there’s no way I’m going to tally up what I spent on the goats.


  1. thank you for sparing me the math! the mathematics of keeping hens is appreciated, though, for those of us considering the possibility of keeping hens in the near future. yea, i wouldn’t tally up the costs of keeping the goats, either….;)

  2. Haha I know because I spent over 2000 on my hens/housing becasue this is our start up year, and I have 7 hens and a roo. currently i have kept track too and one hen laid 108 eggs, the others arent as good layers and so I am at roughly 300 eggs but a hen is now setting on 7 eggs so hopefully we will have *free* hens soon! lol

  3. But the adventures, love and entertainment that they give us can not be measured; its priceless.

  4. I have 15 large layers, two bantams, one roo. I sell every egg I can get, keeping a few for myself, which I pay for and account for…which is enough for my use. I have customers who want half doz each bantam and large eggs, but all sell for $3 a doz. I will sell just one egg if that is what they want! The hens have more than paid back the cost of their feed (layer crumble at 11.50 a bag) and their treats. I made enough profit to buy a laptop computer last year. I try to have a few pullets over winter for good egg supply. They get “gifts” of cabbages and whole grain breads from the store discount shelf. Also, occasionally the store will supply huge boxes of greens for free. In summer I grow greens of all sorts and cabbages, sunflowers and calendula flowers for the hens…and all the tomatoes they can eat. This year, I hope to add about ten new girls to the flock. I like keeping a mixed age flock…and the roo pays for himself, saving the hens from a tenacious hawk that dove right through the netting. They are worth every bit of time and money it takes to keep them safe and happy.

  5. I kept a tally one year in ‘the egg files’ book. Never again. It was all going swimmingly until Big Girl needed a visit to the vet.
    Feed over here costs about £9 for a 25kg bag (can’t be bothered to do a conversion! I’ve only just got the hang of metric…) and they really zip through it. I sell my eggs at 20p each.
    But they repay me a thousand-fold in amusement value and saving me from being caught talking to myself by passers-by! I was talking to the hens, you know…

  6. My nine hens (only three currently laying!) more than pay their way re feed … but we’ll never recover the initial costs of setting up!

  7. Cost of layer pellets $10.99/50lb bag, scratch $8.99/bag, hens chasing bugs, happily eating kitchen scraps, sun bathing, cackling softly while collecting eggs, running to the fence to meet you , nice ORANGE yolks and non running egg whites PRICELESS

  8. 2 hens…free, “A” frame coop…free (refurbished with elbow grease and left over paint), 3 bags per year crumble…24$, many giggles….free, 500 eggs from happy, loved hens…priceless :)
    No expensive lights, heaters, fencing, houseing etc required.

  9. All of you made my day!! I also tried to keep a tally going, until a family crisis hit late summer and my attention was diverted. Up to that point I had received a whopping 1100 plus eggs and was keeping the neighbors and myself well supplied. The girls have slowed down a bit, and I have lost one hen to an over excited puppy (another story…sigh), but the joy they bring me FAR outweighs the costs of keeping them. And I too woke up Jan. 1st with ordering chicks on the brain :)

  10. I agree with every one of you that the experience is “priceless.” That said, it’s a relief that it’s not expensive like my horse habit used to be! (There are few things as expensive as having a horse.) My first coop was a falling-apart hand-me-down. I keep upgrading (and spending $) because sturdy little barns make me happy. It turns out that the hens are happier, too. I can tell by their behavior that the cupola was worth every cent.
    Wendy- my husband did the math for you – it’s very close to our numbers here, both the cost of the feed, and what people are paying for eggs. Lucky you that your neighbors think you’re sane for talking to your hens – mine think I’m crazy for it. I think they’d prefer I muttered to myself!

  11. There is economy of scale definitely. Organic pellets cost almost four times what normal layer pellets cost, especially if you insist on non-GMO corn. We go through five tons of organic pellet a month. Fortunately we grow most of the chicken food: grains, seeds, and don’t figure in costs for them. The best part is that chickens eat mostly the fruits and veggies from our farm: sometimes directly in the fields, sometimes cut and cleaned by humans.
    The good news is that to offset a cost of $6 per dozen eggs, the pullet eggs sell for $6 per dozen. Older hens’ eggs are jumbo and sell for $8 a dozen. Customers are waiting at 10am and 3pm to make sure they get their one dozen allotment.
    And I get to take home eggs for free!

  12. You should try raising some ducks. A family member of mine is trying rare breeds that would be a good idea to save them especially the nankin chicken they have one you should search for it.

  13. ha ha!! I haven’t even attempted to think or try to see what we spend! I have 27 chickens now (a good variety of them) and I will just guess on an average month we are into it $70-80. EEK! But for our goats..we raise our own hay and we save corn from our cornmaze each year so that offsets it….right?? ;)I’ll hide this post from my hubby

  14. We enjoy our chickens so much that the initial monetary investment isn’t discussed in our home. We went all out and got an Eglu cube. Hubby complained about that for a while but he ejoys the chicken’s antics as much as I do. He’s now on board to build a coop so I can have more chickens!

  15. I was wondering about the cost over a year and how much I might bring in. My first babies dont arrive for 2 weeks. I am enjoying your blog which I was directed to from another chicken cam site. Mostly Im in it for fun and maybe Ill luck out and make enough to pay for feed.