“Is it more economical to raise chickens and eat their eggs than to purchase them at the market?” ~ Mira Vosberg
Mira, I’m glad you wrote but I’m not sure you’ll like my answer.
If you have to feed your flock only on commercial feed, you may find that it costs more to keep your chickens than it would if you were to buy fresh eggs locally.
You will certainly pay more to house and care for your chickens than you would spend to purchase regular eggs at the grocery store that come from a battery operation.
Not even taking into consideration the conditions in which the eggs are laid in a battery operation, you may remember that eggs are allowed to be on the shelves of the store up to 45 days after they are processed. So no matter how cheap they are, store bought, regular eggs are my LAST choice.
If you want a lot of eggs and do not have a preference in color, Leghorns are the most economical breed because they do not eat as much as larger breeds. Their eggs are white and they are the breed of choice for commercial egg production for the reasons I just mentioned.
If you have to feed commercial feed only, look into discounts available if you purchase in bulk. Keep in mind that feed does not last indefinitely and should be used within a few months.
Any amount of diet that you can provide through forage and home rations will help to make your chicken keeping more economical. Just remember that what you put into your chickens will determine the quality of what comes out of them.
Refer to Vol 2: Issue: 1 – Wednesday 21st January 2009 of this newsletter for an in depth discussion on home rationed diets. For now though, the basics are Grit, Grains, Greens, Protein and Calcium.
To really determine if it’s economical to keep chickens, as always, I’ll encourage you to do the research in your area. If you have a neighbor who will sell you their surplus eggs, you’ll probably be able to get them cheaper than if you raise the chickens yourself.
If you must buy your eggs from the store under the label of “Free Range”, they might not be fresh and you’ll pay a lot for them.
Check into the cost of building or purchasing a coop.
Find out what feed will cost in your area.
Even if your flock can forage for most of the year, chickens need more food to maintain their health in the winter and in most places, forage is limited during the winter so you’ll probably have to supplement with commercial feed during that time.
Finally, I’d like to suggest that keeping chickens doesn’t have to be about money only, or even about the superior nutritional quality of the eggs; keeping chickens is also about “keeping chickens”. It’s an experience and a process. It’s a way to connect to our food and to give it meaning. It’s an opportunity to work with animals in a world that spends much of it’s time working with computers.
It gets us outside into the sunshine and fresh air.
So whether it is or isn’t more economical to keep chickens than to buy our eggs, for our family, it’s worth it.