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.