I'm 74 years and my husband 78. This winter I got a yen to have chickens again. We had them many years ago when our kids were small and I got to thinking this year that the eggs from our own chickens all those years ago tasted much better than the expensive "organic" eggs I was buying. Also, I doubt that those commercial eggs labeled organic and free range get a very varied diet or are really anything like free ranged. Any producer can claim "free range" even if the birds just have a tiny outdoor space. Also I believe we need to reduce our carbon footprints and produce more of our own food locally. On the other hand, I thought maybe it didn't make sense to invest in a project like that so late in life. Well after much cogitation, this spring I went for it. For 12 hens I built a 64 sq ft pen with a predator proof run the same size. And then from noon to dusk I let them out into a quarter acre area that is fenced but not really predator proof and thus not suitable for nightime. They are now laying an average of seven eggs a day.
I didn't really add it up exactly but the coop, run and fencing for the quarter acre came to about $1200, so yes the eggs are expensive unless you spread that cost over years. But my daughter, her husband and the grandkids will inherit the property and the coop will last for many decades with some maintenance. The organic feed I buy is costing me $1.25 per dozen eggs while inferior organic store bought eggs are $4 and up per dozen. So I'm saving $624 or so per year and that pays for the coop in two years or so. After that it's all savings. So the economics aren't really that bad. And I feel good about eating eggs from hens that are having a happy, healthy life and are as local as you can get.
We live in Carbondale, Colorado, which is about a 40 minute drive from Aspen, and has an altitude of about 6500' so we have real winters. Building a sturdy, well-insulated structure for these winters meant the coop was more of an investment that would be necessary if we lived in a warmer climate. But it's dry here, so I've never smelled so much as a whiff of ammonia in the coop even though I only clean the roost boards daily. The straw bedding is cleaned out once every 6 - 8 weeks spring, summer and fall, and a deeper winter bedding will be left all winter. I'm covering the hoop framed run with plastic except at the downwind end this winter so the chicks will have a dry, sunny, or at least bright, outdoor space in the winter when they don't want to brave the elements in their larger yard.
I'm really glad I did this. It's nice to have a project I can still handle at my age and this is a useful, pleasant and interesting project.