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Cost vs. benefit analysis

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by QChickieMama, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. QChickieMama

    QChickieMama Songster

    Oct 1, 2011
    I'm guessing someone on this amazing forum has run a cost-benefit analysis of their chicken/egg/meat production.

    Can you tell me about it?

    I'm wanting to provide primarily for my family of 7, but I'm happy to sell any extra eggs we happen to have. That said, I'm beginning to think this is an expensive hobby instead of a production of healthy, yummy eggs & poultry. I have a Whole Foods nearby. Would it be cheaper to buy their organic products instead of raising 15 chickens on my own?

    I had to buy a chicken tractor and starter pullets for about $400 last summer. I spent another $150 on a lame incubator and some waterers & feeders. After that, we're mostly just buying feed.

    Of my 15 chickens, 3 are roos who will be meat after they do their job in the spring. Of the females, the 5 leghorns are giving 3-4 eggs/day now. (All summer, it was 5/day.) The 5 heritage hens are only giving 1 every other day now. (During the summer, it was about 4-5/day.) Two are pullets.

    We're barely getting enough eggs for the family at this point. Once in a while, we'll roast a rooster.

    SO, I'm inclined to think it's an expensive hobby.


  2. momma of a chicken lover

    momma of a chicken lover Chirping

    Oct 17, 2011
    We have not done a cost analysis. I doubt I would enjoy the results. What we have discussed is the pros of growing our own food. We know our vegetables are grown in soil that has never had anything gross placed in it. Our family has lived here since prior to world war 2 so we know.

    When it comes to eggs, we know:
    Our chickens are humanely treated
    What our chickens are eating ergo what we are eating
    That fresh free range chickens give us eggs that have positive benefits - I am tired so cannot remember the specifics - omegas?
    Chickens have an oddly relaxing, blood pressure lowering effect on a person when you hang out and watch them
    There are more...

    I guess we have decided that these are not easy to assign a monetary value, but as the old commercial said, they are priceless, at least to us.
    2 people like this.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I haven't done an analysis but if you are buying what they eat, you can get eggs and meat cheaper at the store. We just can't touch the efficiency of the commercial operations.

    The way chickens were raised for thousands of years was that they would free range. Thye foraged for practically anything they ate. Depending on the climate, they may be fed in the winter but not when the ground could feed them. Those chickens had great quality forage though. They were not foraging in a manicured back yard with only grass available. They were able to find grass and weeds, grass and weed seeds, and all kinds of creepy-crawlies. They may not lay an egg a day or reach cooking size by 15 weeks but the feed cost was next to nothing. That's how my parents did it as well as most of my relatives and neighbors.

    I can't do that because of predator pressure. A whole lot of us can't do that because we don't have the quality forage and space needed.

    I have to buy most of what they eat so I consider it an expensive hobby.
  4. tick22

    tick22 Chirping

    Nov 5, 2012
    Vanceboro, NC
    I guess I am lucky. I buy a little food for my chickens and let them free range. (also check out the feeding chicken thread for cheap ways to grow your own food for them, or feed them leftovers etc) I have a couple of dogs and 6 cats that have grown up with chickens and kind of herd them and protect them. I do lock them up at night or I should say, they return to the coops at night, then I lock them up. I built most everything I use for them (coops, laying boxs, biddie boxes) from old scrap wood, things the neighbors don't want (things to make feeders and watering things) or trade labour for materials, so that cost is near nothing. It can be an expensive hobby or you can do it on the cheap. I don't care if my coops don't look like castles, just safe. I started with 6 chickens in 2006 and now have up to 42, give or take, who is on the chopping block. I have more eggs than I know what to do with ( I sell or barter with what we don't eat), have good tasting chicken for soups, to grill or cook in the oven. So for me, they save me money but again, I have a couple of acres and live in a rural area. Not all of us are that lucky I know.. I do find as they stop laying (old age) or I get too many Roosters, I have a freezer packed with chicken, whole or cut up...
  5. 20736

    20736 Songster

    Jun 6, 2012
    I think your analysis has to include intangibles like better tasting eggs, better baking when using your eggs, free fertilizer for the garden, freshness of the meat when used, etc.
    Those things are hard to put a price on.
    Not to mention the enjoyment received from owning the chickens.
    Just my view from the coop.
    1 person likes this.
  6. QChickieMama

    QChickieMama Songster

    Oct 1, 2011
    Wow. That's the way to do things! I have the space and the amazing pastures for free ranging, but, alas, the dogs. Maybe someday when our son takes his dog with him, we can free range more and buy less feed.

    BTW, I'm in Hillsborough. Where's Vanceboro?
  7. tick22

    tick22 Chirping

    Nov 5, 2012
    Vanceboro, NC
    Wow. That's the way to do things! I have the space and the amazing pastures for free ranging, but, alas, the dogs. Maybe someday when our son takes his dog with him, we can free range more and buy less feed.

    BTW, I'm in Hillsborough. Where's Vanceboro?

    Vanceboro is between Greenville and New Bern. The biggest cities close to me.

    On the dogs, the Tan and Brown hound came after the chickens and we had to force him to sit as we put chickens around him. within a week he knew they belonged here and just watches and sometimes plays with them. Now the biddies he thinks are chew toys ( he lets go of them on command which leaves a wet confused chick which grow up thinking that is normal) so we have to tie him up when the are out for field day but normally as they get some size, 6 weeks or so depending on growth, he goes back to watcher and protector...
    Like I said, I have been lucky.... or blessed, your choice....
    1 person likes this.

  8. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Songster

    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I think it is really all about how much time and research you are willing to put into and if you would rather go into this with a hobby/pet mentality or a food/business mentality. There are a lot of ways to supplement costs like growing fodder (which you can even do inside if you have a small yard), free ranging, fermenting feed, farming mealworms, milled grains, etc.

    If you want eggs and meat then you need to set up two separate flocks: one with meat breeds that can be processed at as young as 8 weeks in some cases, and one with the most efficient layers possible. A reduction in laying is normal in the winter but you can add a light to help with that. Cull chickens that are not productive. Research the pros and cons of starting our own breeding program vs buying only productive point of lay hens. Keep very careful records and adjust as needed. Avoid vet bills and take care of everything yourself. Some people manage to break even or have a small profit.

    But, these things require time and effort on your part and that you not see the birds not as pets - they are working birds.

    If you want pets then it is not a cheap hobby, but it is hobby with a lot of benefits that may be worth the expense. It all what you want to do with it.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  9. dreamcatcherarabians

    dreamcatcherarabians Songster

    Jul 29, 2010
    From a strictly business standpoint, most of us would fall into the expensive hobby category, IF you had to assign dollar values to the pleasures of owning them you might break about even.

    I own roughly 24 good egg layers, 5 cochins who lay but are primarily 'eye candy' and 1 roo. I'll eat that roo either when he gets old or when he decides to attack me. He's almost a year old and hasn't been a problem so far, so that helps his longevity. The 5 cochins are really only responsible for being pretty and sweet, though I won't refuse their eggs. The 24 egg producers are responsible for production, and they've done pretty well. I donate a lot of eggs to the Salvation Army Food Bank, sell a bunch and we eat a LOT of eggs. When those egg laying hens get old enough to not be productive, I'll process them and start over. I am sentimental, so it'll take several years before I pull the plug on anyone. I had a new flock this year and they've really only been laying consistantly since Sept, and my 'Egg Money' jar had $250 bucks in dollar bills in it the other day. I haven't counted the change.

    I buy 4 bags of Layena every 2 weeks, so $120/month for feed. Regular Tyson whole chickens were on sale at the Food Pyramid the other day for $.99/lb, each bird averaged 5 lbs. So, $5/bird. I pay between $2 & $5 for day old birds, depending on what breeds I buy.

    I re-purposed an old shed into a very nice coop, used extra 2X4's to frame up a protected run and bought tin for the roof to cover the run and protect it from rain & snow. I have a tarp for the side to protect from storms. I buy shavings in bulk for my horses, so swipe a wheel barrow full of shavings once or twice a year for bedding. The birds are free fed Layena and oyster shell, and they free range.

    I get the satisfaction of taking care of the birds, watching their silly antics, eating some great tasting FRESH eggs, and when it's all said and done, eating some very yummy fresh Chicken meat. We look forward to Chicken and Dumplin's days.

    I think health benefit wise, you can't beat raising your own chickens. Both from a documented scientific stand point and from a holistic not so easily proven stand point, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

    If I were trying to feed a family of 7, I'd probably run 2 flocks, 1 for eggs and 1 of meat birds and we'd have a big day to process them and get them into freezer camp. The kids would grow up knowing where their food comes from, how it's been treated while it was alive and how it was slaughtered. They'd also have responsibility from needing to feed and water the chickens and they'd learn about having something utterly dependant on them.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  10. Spifflove

    Spifflove Songster

    Nov 13, 2012
    Just buy the Organic Eggs at Whole Foods.

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