We have been wanting to explore keeping chickens (click here for an interview with the chicken lady) for a while. It is a project that would be educational, and provide us with some fresh eggs. Our environment is perfect for it. We live on two semi-rural acres and would have plenty of space for a coop.
Many of our friends already have chickens. It has been a trend in this area for a number of years. They are happy to answer all of questions about raising chickens, what works or doesn’t work, how to keep the foxes out of the hen house, the pros and cons of having a rooster, etc. My brother-in-law was even able to point out that his chickens love to eat pizza crusts. The one question that no one seems to be able to answer is whether or not raising chickens is cost effective? Would we be spending more money on taking care of and feeding the chickens than we would save from the fresh eggs?
It was time for some research into the subject.
From what I have read, raising chickens for eggs, in general, will cost you more than store-bought eggs. However, there are still many benefits, such as knowing where your food is coming from and being able to enjoy organic eggs full of extra Omegas.
The key then, is to try to defer or reduce the costs of raising chickens so that you break even or even save money.
The chickens themselves don’t usually cost much. The expense comes from sheltering and feeding. So, if you can make your own shelter or get one for free (I’ve seen a number of them on Freecycle or Craigslist), you’ll be ahead. There are plenty of ideas online for turning all sorts of things into chicken coops, such as old play sets.
Next, the diet of your chickens can be supplemented with some table scraps (such as those pizza crusts), and of course you ca have them free range on your property, where they will find their own worms, grubs and insects.
Keeping extra chickens and selling some of the eggs can actually turn you a profit, depending on where you live, since many people will pay a premium for organic eggs that come from local free-range chickens.