debating the dive into chickens, HELP!!!

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by MaybeMaybe, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. MaybeMaybe

    MaybeMaybe New Egg

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    Jan 31, 2011
    Hello! My family raised a flock of about 20-30 egg layers and a rooster here and there when I was young and now that I am grown with a family of my own and in a house that we now own getting a couple chic urban chicks sounded like a good idea for fresh organic eggs, free manure for the garden and a way to teach our 4 year old about where his food comes from and responsibility. I (husband and son are ready to jump ahead) have been toiling over coop designs, breeds and materials for weeks and was ready to go ahead on my plans for a couple urban chickens when my father-in-law brought up a good point. [​IMG] What will I do with the girls when my family goes camping, travels for my husband¬ís job(usually only a weekend here and there) or are otherwise pulled away from home. We are also in quite a bind financially and while we can get almost all coop materials for free or extremely cheap, the cost will still be there. I guess what I am looking for is knowledgeable insight on the reality of us getting chicks right now with these limitations. How easy would it be for me to take two or three (most I will be getting) to my mother¬ís for a week at the longest, and simply add them to her flock of 4 (possibly a few more this spring)? Will the eggs truly pay for themselves with only two hens with most building materials for the coop for free? And in all of your infinite wisdom is it wise to embark on getting chicks and all the set up that goes along with them if my family is struggling financially? [​IMG]

    I appreciate any and all ideas and honest opinions,
    MaybeMaybe
     
  2. annaraven

    annaraven Born this way

    Apr 15, 2010
    SillyCon Valley
    First off, [​IMG]

    Second, if you are getting building supplies free, you're only going to have to deal with feed and incidental expences. Where are you located? If you're in frozen tundra, you'll be spending a fair bit for feed for a while. If you're in sunny california, it's less expensive. There's a thread about "the cost of setting up chickens". Check it out.

    If you're truly having trouble with expenses:
    1. check out the reducing expenses and reducing the grocery bill threads on sustainableself.com (the sister site to BYC)
    2. if you're spending money on organic eggs anyways, then it may be worth it to get backyard chickens
    3. If you're going to be gardening (and have free fencing material to keep the chickens OUT of the garden), it's a great way to get good compost for the veggies.

    Good luck deciding. And again, welcome!
     
  3. Chicken.Lytle

    Chicken.Lytle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Welcome to BYC. I started with chickens over the summer and the people of BYC were very helpful. Feel free to visit my BYC Page for links to my blog that you may find informative or amusing.

    Assuming the coop is free, your labor is free, and there are no permit fees, your chickens will make a small amount of money for you if you eat eggs. Realistically, this is not a way to get rich.

    For food security, teaching, and fun -- chickens are awesome.

    You can generally find somebody to take care of your chickens about as easily as you can find somebody to take care of your indoor cats. As for temporarily mixing flocks, I would not attempt a true mix, though a quarantine arrangement is possible. But travel can stress out a chicken....

    When building your coop, make sure it is predator-safe, especially from dogs.

    Through all my ups and downs with my flock I have never regretted getting them. [​IMG]
     
  4. annaraven

    annaraven Born this way

    Apr 15, 2010
    SillyCon Valley
    Chicken.Lytle :

    Realistically, this is not a way to get rich.
    <snip>
    For food security, teaching, and fun -- chickens are awesome.

    For cheap entertainment, chickens are awesome!​
     
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    We were at a mega grocery store yesterday and saw eggs for $1.19 a dozen.

    Frankly, purely on the financial basis, it would be very difficult to compete with that. When one is honest about the entire cost, from coup equipping, feeders, waterers, electricity, litter bedding, the cost of buying the birds, 5 months of raising out chicks or buying started pullets @ $10-$14 each, building the run and so forth, it is very hard to even break even for the first year. Granted, we're not talking thousands of dollars, but there is a monetary commitment.

    The only hens that will give your family that $1.19 dozen of eggs per week are production strains of sex-link hybrids or similar. That is 2 eggs per day, 6 out of 7 days a week.

    Yes, vacations and travel almost always require someone to step in and care for the birds. Having chickens is a commitment of time, money and heart. Not saying this to discourage you, but to have you fully informed. It is good to know what you are getting into.
     
  6. gotweim

    gotweim Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 25, 2011
    Romeo, MI
    In the summer we go away almost every weekend to our cabin and we pay the 10-year old boy that lives next door $2 a weekend to lock the girls up at night, let them out in the morning, feed and water them. We also told him he could keep the eggs he collects those days. He is so excited to do it and comes and visits them even when we are home.

    I'd have to agree that it isn't going to make you rich, especially since you only have a few girls. We have 8 and get 6-8 eggs a day....when I do sell them I sell them for $2 a dozen. I posted a listing on craigslist and have a few regulars that come once every couple of weeks. My daughter gets to keep the "egg money" since she helps me out. It's a great way to teach kids about responsibility!

    As far as expenses go it isn't too bad....I broke ours down for you below...hope it helps!!

    Feed.....50 lbs - $13.99 (lasts me about 3 weeks with 10 chickens)
    Crushed Granite to mix in feed.......5 lbs - $4.99 (lasts about 6 weeks)
    Cat litter for under roosting bar...........$7.49 (1 - 20lb container a week) (replaced weekly, scooped daily)
    Bedding..........$5.99 (replaced in nesting boxes daily) (lasts about 4-6 weeks)

    The only other added expense we have it to our electric bill but I'm not sure how much that is. We used to have a light turn on automatically so they had 14 hours of light to lay but I shut that off one day and realized I got the same amount of eggs with it off! Go figure! We also have heat lamp for the bitter cold days.

    Good Luck!! [​IMG]
     
  7. geebs

    geebs Lovin' the Lowriders!

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    If you go camping.. be sure to pack the little banty rooster... He makes the best Red neck alarm clock... ha ha ha... I really did this once.. I didn't worry about him AT ALL...I don't think I would take the whole flock though... ha ha ha...
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I have always offered grit (crushed granite) separately from the feed so they eat it when they want. They do eat it, but a 5 lb bag lasts me a year. You don't have to use cat litter under the roost though it may make it easier to clean it daily. I let my litter and poop build up til I want it for the compost, simply stirring it to control odor if they don't do it for me. and I use pine shavings on the floor. You can also use a poop board under the roost and scrape it off daily or a few times a week, so there is no expense. I also don't replace the bedding in nest boxes anywhere near daily; they don't poop in there. I do have a dirt floor coop, by choice. A $6 bag of pine shavings lasts me a lot longer than 6 weeks, once the initial layer is down. You may fine you can get hay cheaper than pine shavings; it doesn't control odor quite as well but you can mix it with the pine. I prefer hay in the nests because they leave it in there, so there is always some on the floor, too.

    The biggest expense reducer is free ranging in warm months, which cuts way down on the feed bill, because they prefer foraging. With dogs trained not to bother the chickens hanging around, mine are fairly safe from predators. And electricity is not necessary at all, really. Convenient sometimes, yes, but not necessary. I daresay old timer's coops never had power. The first winter they are likely to lay anyway, and the second winter they are likely to molt instead of lay, regardless of added light.

    In the end it would still be cheaper to buy eggs, I suppose, though I get enough eggs in warm months that I could sell some; it's just that this is a legal problem in GA so I give them away.

    It would have helped to know where you are. When I was a kid near Chicago, we bought chicks in the spring and gradually ate them before the dead of winter to avoid the winter feed bill. The rest of the year they foraged a lot of their own food. The colder your climate, the higher the winter feed bill. With a little thought given to management, your expenses can almost be limited to feed. And day old chicks are a lot cheaper than older hens, plus a much better experience for kids. For only a few, you can set up a brooder for nothing or nearly nothing, with a desk lamp and a cardboard box. You can easily build a feeder for a few chickens for free, and actually you can make a waterer for next to nothing, though a gallon plastic one isn't that expensive, and that's all you need. Add marbles when they are very small for chick's safety and you are done.

    You know, even when money is tight, most people do spend a little on entertainment, if only a sundae at the DQ now and then, or a rented movie, or the like. Chickens don't need to cost much, if any, more. And they are indeed a great experience for kids.
     
  9. gotweim

    gotweim Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Romeo, MI
    Quote:Unfortunately I have a rooster that likes to hover over the hens that are nesting so my nesting boxes need to be cleaned daily. I am somewhat OSD about a clean coop so I probably clean way more than I have to but I guess it's better than the opposite!

    The cat litter just makes my life way easier! My hens also don't seem to like hay. When I was using hay in the nesting boxes they would lay on the pine bedding on the floor of the coop. I switched to pine in the nesting boxes and they started laying there...tried to slowing switch to hay again but they were back to the floor so I just stuck to the pine in the boxes.

    The grit I can't seem to get right, if I offer it on it's own they don't touch it so I started mixing it in and followed the directions on the back of the bag. 1 lb for every 20 pounds of feed.
     
  10. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Quote:Well, I hope you didn't think I was being critical. Obviously, what works for you is what you should do. And I am most certainly NOT OCD, probably a bit of a slob, also old and without a lot of energy any more. I was just trying to show the OP some cheaper alternatives, since money seems to be the obstacle.

    I had the opposite experience, tried pine shavings in the nests to avoid keeping two types of beddings, and out they went onto the floor, even with barriers along the bottom. So I went back to hay, which they leave alone.

    Chickens. Sigh.
     

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