Originally Posted by lazy gardener
How would you compare the amount of work involved in the bees compared to the work with your chicken flock? For comparison, my winter flock is 16 birds, and my summer flock can go up to 40 birds. I've heard it's expensive. I've heard that top bar cuts the risk of mites, and the associated need to medicate the hive. And, if I got involved in it, I think I'd make my own hive. I have a friend who has an extractor.
I have 2 goats, 10 chickens and currently 4 hives. For me, I feel like the bees are more of a burden than the first two combined, which probably sounds ridiculous! I totally agree with SCG that on a day-to-day basis it isn't comparable, but I find that the bees constantly keep me worried. In the spring, try as I might, I always get swarms, so I'm up in trees cutting down branches, scrambling for extra boxes, watching for afterswarms, etc. Then in summer I do try to inspect at least once a month. I should do it more, but to be honest I find it difficult to manage the boxes myself. I use 10-frame deeps for my brood boxes and when they are full they are heavy! I treat for mites in the fall and feed as needed (I also use a top feeder). For winter I wrap the hives, put on mouse guards and candyboards, and worry some more about whether or not they'll make it! A lot of people in my county (Cumberland) didn't extract this year because of the drought. For the first time in awhile folks are worried about winter starvation even with candy on.
Start up costs are fairly high, like SCG said. If you have to replace your bees annually, that gets pricey quickly, too. I would definitely start with an over-wintered local nucleus colony if you can. That way you know you've got stock that can take a Maine winter! If you do purchase a southern package, consider re-queening with a northern-raised queen. After the first few years (I'm only in my 3rd), I anticipate expenses will even out, as I now have the basic and extra supplies I need. I am sure I could do it less expensively if I were more handy. Alas, that just isn't the case.
I have taken several beekeeping classes through the Cooperative Extension in my county, which I highly recommend doing.
And to make this novel somehow relate to chickens... they are all out in this chilly weather and don't seem the least bit bothered! My greyhound on the other hand... I can barely get her out the door, even with her jacket on!