We got chickens a few weeks ago from someone who was giving them away. We were supposed to take their coop as well, but it was decided that the coop was too difficult to move. I guess it would have had to have been completely torn down to move (it was a refurbished playhouse). So, we spent the Sunday we got them building a little coop in Grampop’s garage. By “we” I mean Hubby and Grampop. It took them about 5 hours to finish.
The coop looks small, but it serves as a hotel for our two chickens (who have been named Neville and Eville). All they do is sleep and lay eggs in there, the rest of the time is spent outside looking for bugs.
We let them free-range our yard unless no one is going to be home, and they seem to be pretty happy. So long as the dog isn’t chasing them, ha.
Chickens are not hard to care for. I thought they were going to be difficult, but they really aren’t any more difficult than a dog or a cat. You open up the coop in the morning, scoop out the poop and any soiled pine shavings, feed and water them. It gets more complicated if they spend their whole day inside of a large coop because there is more cleaning involved, but the system we’ve got is pretty nice.
We started out with an egg eating problem, however. That is a special kind of disappointing: go to reach for a freshly laid egg and the hen turns around and pecks it open! The little chicken ate two eggs total, but has stopped now. I blew out two eggs and filled them with mustard and we put a golf ball inside the coop for her to bruise her beak on. I’m not sure if either of those things were what made her stop, but she hasn’t eaten any more since the second egg.
Who knew chickens ate their own eggs? Apparently it’s a common problem, although it still doesn’t make any sense to me on a basic survival level.
The dog ate one of our eggs, so we lost a total of three to the animals. Now we know to keep the eggs where the dog can’t get them when we bring them inside. I wasn’t expecting it because I have fed our princess dog raw egg before and she wouldn’t touch the shells. It didn’t occur to me that a fresh egg smells different because it hasn’t been washed.
Now it’s time for math!
The feed we buy is $27 for 50# (organic, soy free mash).
Poultry grit is $10 for 5#. You have to mix 1# into 40# of feed or free feed. I’m going with the former method in the interests of making math easier.
Pine shavings are $13 for a huge bag. I haven’t gone through a third of it yet and it’s been 3 weeks.
So feed is $.57 per pound making 40# cost $21.6. Feeding expense per pound including grit runs at about $23.6 (or $.59 per pound). Each chicken eats 1/4 to 1/3 pound a day. Again, in the interest of easier math I’m going with the former number. We have two birds, so that’s 1/2 pound per day, 3.5 pounds per week. Weekly feed costs are $2.07 (rounding up). Assuming we use about 1/3 bag of shavings every 6 weeks we can add $.72 a week making the total cost $2.79 per week.
We get a dozen eggs a week (each hen takes a day off of laying). A comparable carton of eggs from the store runs $4.99 and up. That saves us $2.2 per dozen, so about $9 a month.
It doesn’t seem like that much on paper, but it’s more than worth it. We’re getting nutritionally superior eggs for $.20 less than what I normally pay for eggs from the store.
Not only that, but chickens are good workers! They till your soil, fertilize your garden (or grass) and keep pests in check.
I’m looking into ways of growing your own chicken feed to cut costs even more, so I’ll keep you updated!