Hi all, So... my husband had to make a dash over to Tractor Supply for layer pellets a couple days ago. After paying $15/50#bag he came home and asked me 1) if this was financially worth it (we agree the value of the kids learning responsibility is important) 2) how other people feed their flocks. The answer to #1 is actually probably "yes" (or at least "close"). When we have to buy store eggs we buy the free-range ones (I know, they probably aren't...) at ~$3/dozen. Right now we have about 11 laying hens (+3 roos, 3 ducks, and 5 guineas) - it's chilly enough some nights that we have a warming lamp for them (not the best coop...) and they're laying 5-6 dozen a week. That is maybe $60/month... if we can only eat the eggs fast enough! Two of the roos are a bit mean - but we have some in the freezer right now - we aren't sure how to count those, since the meat we buy to replace with would probably not be organic (sigh... but with 5+ kids it's price!). I should be tracking better, but I think we are using 2 bags of pellets and 1 bag of scratch grain per month - we've been free-choice feeding the pellets and maybe can cut it down a bit. Still puts us maybe $15/month ahead while everyone is laying (and not counting replacing bulbs, or any other hardware). However I'd love to not have to keep running to TS (and running out when the kids forget to tell me). I'd love to setup a sustainable micro-system! Currently our family-of-7 (soon to be 8!) puts all the leftovers/scraps in the compost heap, with the good ones going to the birds - but the birds free-range and go get the other ones as soon as our backs are turned (if we could eat it, they can, I assume... it's stuff my kids didn't finish, even if some is Dorito crumbs or other cra- I mean fast food). I'm wondering if it makes sense to do worm-bins or soldier-fly buckets or something instead... I'm also wondering how hard it would be to grow/harvest/store/feed our own grain. Harvey Ussery's book was AWESOME, but I'm still not sure where to begin. How do you do it? What would you recommend to me? What has been most cost-effective? What was worth growing? What reduced your bought-feed costs best? What was fun? What really wasn't? What was way more time-consuming than you expected? Was it worth it? We're in Southern Indiana, near Louisville, KY. We're a zone 5b on the USDA chart. Warm weather starts in March/April (crocus) and goes through October/November (tomato fruit-set). We get about 35 inches of precipitation a year, mostly rain (it rained all day today), but we have 3-4 weeks DRY in July. Winter can go as low as 15F, but rarely goes below 30F. The poultry have freerange over (currently) about 1-2 acres, probably farther when it warms up, and have access under a 2-line electric fence to our neighbors' horse pasture (poop). Our soil is badly eroded and overgrazed from the last owners - mostly clay with rock showing through, and we have let the old horse pastures fallow (neglected, to be precise) since we moved in a year and a half ago, and several sinkholes (common in this area). We have a small tractor ("now we belong" my husband said - it seemed to cure his concerns that we were crazy city people) with a sickle-bar mower and no other attachments. We've had chickens for 3 1/2 years. And, ahem, I'm not really great at building stuff. I'm getting better, but my husband usually has to rescue me part way through (well, he doesn't *have* to, but it comes out better when he does). We homeschool our 5 kids (21mo through 11yo) and are expecting #6 in June. The older kids are great at poultry care (except for reporting running low on pellets in a timely way) and actually pretty good builders... ... but anything I try to start has to be pretty simple. My husband is going to be grossed out by worms and flies, though my 9yo daughter will be thrilled. Thanks for any advice! Kerridwen no-longer-suburban soon-to-be-mom-of-6!