Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cost considerations

You might be wondering how cost-effective it is to keep one's own hens, rather than  buying eggs at the store.   Luckily we have been keeping detailed records with our collective.

We realized a significant savings by pooling our resources to build the coop.  Building one usually isn't cheap, even when you use reclaimed materials as much as possible.  On the other hand, our coop for 24 hens is significantly bigger than a backyard coop would need to be, so it does depend to some extent on how many chickens you wish to house and how fancy you want to go.  We paid several hundred dollars for materials.

The hens themselves are not terribly expensive.  Expect to pay $10 or less per bird.  They don't start laying until they are several months old, but once they get going, a good layer will produce an egg a day for two to three years, with production diminishing during the dark winter months.

The cost of feed depends on the quality and how much you're buying at a time.  Our calculations show that it's costing us about $1.50 per dozen eggs in feed.   You can reduce the cost of feed by giving your chickens table scraps, though this may not be as nutritionally balanced.  Or to put it slightly differently, you won't be able to control the nutritional balance as easily.

You could factor in the cost of gas to get to the coop, but you should probably also subtract something for the enjoyment and relaxation factor of being there.

Ideally, I would like backyard coop, or a communal one within easy cycling distance.  That way there would be no carbon footprint at all.  But our councillors took this option out of our hands.

And what about the education the children (and us adults) are getting about where our food comes from each time we visit the coop?  Can you attach a price tag to that?

If you're aiming for cost-savings above all other considerations, the cheapest grocery store eggs might be your option of choice.  But this choice comes with a hidden price that the commercial egg industry isn't keen for you to think about.

$2 and change will get you a dozen eggs from caged hens that spend their entire 18 month life in an extremely smelly space about 2/3 the size of one sheet of copy paper, with no room to move around in.  They never see the light of day.  The birds' beaks are clipped to prevent them from pecking each other.  When their productive time is over, they are dispatched.

Here in Windsor, the best quality grocery store eggs cost around $6/dozen, and they come from hens that are not free range.

Our hens are outdoors all day long.  They are not crowded, and there is no doubt in any of our minds that our trailer chicks enjoy 5 star treatment.  Our hens are 100% free range, and 100% organic.  When we collect our eggs, we know with 100% certainty that they were laid no more than 24 hours before.   What would be a fair market price for eggs like that?

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