Our First Year of Eggs: Was It Worth Raising Our Own?

eggs 001 (Medium)Last year was our first time ever owning chickens. I wondered if it would be more cost effective owning our own chickens or simply buying eggs from the store. I kept a spreadsheet of every expense we had related to the chickens, which was mostly food, and I counted every egg that was laid for the year.

Well friends, after reviewing my spreadsheet it looks like our first year raising chickens was not a money saving venture. Here was the breakdown:

  • Chicken Feed: $112.97 This was for (50 lb??) bags of corn and laying mash from Tractor Supply store.
  • Chicken Feeders ($3.79 each) and Waterers ($2.99 each): $20.34 We shouldn’t have wasted our money. We could have made our own.
  • EGGS Collected 2009: 203

That means that it cost us approx. $0.65 per egg!

Yikes!! We could have bought organic free range eggs from the store for cheaper than that!

However, there are several factors I have to consider…

First of all, when we got the chickens they were all still very young, and were not laying yet. It was actually a few months before they began to lay.

Then I experimented with changing their feed and messed up their laying habits.

They began molting, and once again stopped laying for a while.

We lost about 10 hens over the summer, so that reduced our production.

It was a while before I free ranged them. Once we started free ranging the cost of feed was dramatically reduced.

And all too quickly winter came and the hens pretty much stopped laying all-together. We bought more laying mash, hoping to inspire them, but it didn’t do any good over the winter. It just ended up costing us more.

So…. not such a great first year. But, lots of learning, which is invaluable, right?

This year we will try to do much better. I wish we had room to grow our own food for the animals, but we’ll probably be stuck buying some feed for a while.

At least this year all of the hens are old enough to be laying, so we won’t be spending so much on food for non-layers. Hopefully in Spring production will pick up again. Through the winter we’ve averaged about 1-3 eggs/wk. Not so great. We only have six hens now, too.

Hopefully, now that the hens are a little older they will start sitting on their eggs this year. We’d love to have some chicks, and increase our flock size.

Now that we are free ranging most days, I’m gonna try cutting out the laying mash again. That stuff is expensive! Maybe we can get cracked corn from the mill for cheaper? I’ll have to check into that.

And I think we are set as far as chicken equipment goes. We may get an incubator if the hens don’t sit well (or “go broody”). Hopefully we’ll at least have a couple of good mama hens.

So, that’s my financial strategy this year. I’ll keep a spreadsheet for 2010 and see if we can do any better. Surely we will!

20 thoughts on “Our First Year of Eggs: Was It Worth Raising Our Own?”

  1. I eat my eggs I chew them twice if you don’t like me I won’t be nice cluck cluck eat a boils egg .egg prices are to high go to triangles.

  2. We found that they loved boiled rice with grated carot and potato. Add some garlic and fresh herbs. Cheaper than mash and it has natural agents for growth and egg laying. We have 6 chickens and I supplement with layer pellets and my warm rice and I average 4 eggs daily.

  3. I have started this year to keep track of our spending/ buying/ production on the mini-farm… And with money we get from eggs, we use that to buy feed. For our first bag of the year, we only had money to buy one bag (usually we buy 2). The second time, we were able to buy 2 with money left over. We JUST bought feed again, and were able to pay for that also with our egg money. So far, our eggs have been free. Which definitely HELPS makes up the cost of our new coop last year and feeders/ waterers the year before. I guess we are gaining on the money lost! 🙂

  4. We have raised chickens for about 8 years now. One thing to really consider is the breed that you get. We have had wonderful results with Red Stars (from McMurray Hatchery). They have a great demeanor and lay eggs year round. We decided to go pure bred and get rid of most (kept 2) and buy Rhode Island Reds. This was our first winter with them and we have averaged 4 eggs per day out of 24 hens! Not good! We will soon be selling the RIR flock and returning to Red Stars. My 2 Red Star girls have laid daily through heat or cold, bright or cloudy days.

  5. I just found your blog and reading for the first time…we also have chickens for the first time a little over a year now…my husband is extremely handy and installed a timer light and heat lamp with things he got for free here and there. the timer light comes on at 4am and the heat lamp stays on all the time…we get almost an egg a day from every chicken. this is their first year laying so they are still a little small. I did not calculate anything like you did but we know we spend more than if we went to the store to get them…but we know where the eggs have been and that the chickens are healthy…I will keep reading your blog on fb as I am really enjoying it so far!

  6. I haven’t been as meticulous as you in my accounting, but I know our first year with chickens is going to be a big bust. 🙂 I got our four chicks at 2 & 4 weeks old in September. They Cost $10. We built the coop $$$, enclosed the run $, purchased a feeder and 2 waterers $, and have been feeding them all winter with not an egg in sight. Now, one of my young “pullets” that I’d hoped would start laying soon decided he would start crowing. That makes me question the gender of a couple of my others because they look more like roos than he does, but I haven’t yet caught them crowing. So, my money pit keeps getting deeper and deeper. But, at least I’ll get a chicken dinner (or three) out of it. That should help cut my egg-costs substantially. Chick pics here: http://hippieingeeksclothing.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/a-pictures-worth-1000-words-2/

  7. What a great post. We haven’t tried to raise chickens (yet ;)) but planted lots of fruit trees and a large vegetable garden last year. It has been very satisfying to raise and preserve lots of our own food, and we are still reaping the benefits every time I reach into the freezer for a jar of homemade grape juice or the pantry for some applesauce. Thanks for the education on raising poultry.

  8. I think you did good for your first year. This was our first year and we spent way tooo much money. My carpenter husband had to build the palace of chicken coops and it cost way too much. I got older hens from my mom and they stopped laying for a few months after I got them. We have spent way too much on feed and supplies just to get started. We are now averaging around 4-8 eggs a day. I love having chickens and knew it would be an expense when I started. There is just something about being able to walk into the backyard and collect your own fresh eggs to feed to the family. No grocery store eggs can compare. Congratulations on your first year!!

  9. Thanks for sharing this… it’s nice to see a realistic look at a first year.

    We don’t have chickens yet ourselves, but good friends of ours do and I remember her saying something about using the incubator and not encouraging her hens to go broody so that she could continue getting eggs from them. That way she could raise the eggs/chicks inside herself and continue getting eggs for eating from the hens.

    I hope this is helpful!

  10. Thanks! Always good to see how it really works out the first year. WE are looking into getting chickens this summer so I am very curious how much it cost.

  11. Hi Kendra!
    Could you share, if you know, what that $112.97 in feed bought you? (How many bags of laying mash and how many bags of corn? Was it whole, shelled corn? What have the prices been on each?) Also, how many total chickens did you start with, and how many of them were mature enough to lay?
    We feed our chickens mostly either just straight, whole, shelled corn, or straight, whole barley, plus unlimited forage (free range), and some kitchen scraps that probably don’t count for much, particularly given the number of birds we have (100+). As best I can figure, we feed about 18 lbs of grain/day. We feed them about an hour before dark. Our goal is for them to get everything they want in the evening, but for the last of the grain to be finished up before we let them out the next morning. In other words, we want the feeder to have a minimal amount of feed left in it when they go to roost.
    Last year we collected 671 dozen sell-able eggs, which would translate to under 1 lb of feed per sell-able egg. That doesn’t count hatching eggs, eggs we accidentally broke, or eggs that we ate ourselves or gave away typically because we found them in a random place and weren’t completely certain how fresh they were. We also raised maybe 30 to 40 cockerels to butcher, plus a similar number of replacement hens, plus a similar number that the hawks ate (mostly smaller ones) mostly during a bad run around October, plus the random casualties. We also sell about 10 extra laying hens in a year. We let mother hens hatch and raise all our biddies, which takes those hens out of production for a couple months or longer, but I don’t know that it really makes that much of a long-term difference, especially since a lot of the mother hens are older hens that aren’t laying as much to start with.
    We’ve never fed laying mash, mainly because we decided to take a stand against genetically modified feedstuffs, but I also don’t think it pays when it comes to small, backyard, free range flocks, especially if you’re not managing everything else (light hours, culling hens after the 1st year, etc.) for maximum production. I expect removing laying mash from the diet would have a shock affect on the birds, possibly forcing a molt, but if you’re letting your hens free range I don’t think the long-term difference for your circumstances would be that great, certainly not enough to justify the cost. I think free range is the best substitute for laying mash.
    If you want to avoid genetically modified feed, you’re not going to be able to find any high protein supplement or laying mash anyway, not unless you can buy certified organic feed. You’ll also have to avoid yellow corn unless you can grow it yourself or buy it directly from one of the few farmers that happens to still be growing a non-GMO variety. Most regular, commercial grain farmers aren’t going to want to deal with you for $20 of feed, nor are they going to have practical means for unloading a small amount of feed or getting it into bags. Until you can manage to grow some corn yourself (for organic, heirloom corn I’d conservatively figure about 3000 sq ft for every 100 lbs of shelled corn), my leading recommendation in the meantime would be barley, purchased from whatever feed mill has the best price. Alternatively, you might consider trying to contract with a “hobby” farmer to grow you an acre of more or less organic corn that you could feed to hogs or chickens. That would have to be more expensive (maybe something like $15/50#bag equivalent), but you wouldn’t have the chemical burden to go with it, and you’d be developing some real community self-sufficiency.

  12. The point of your experiment probably wasn’t to make money, but to become less shackled to the fragile food distribution network and big box super market food. (You wanted to grow your own food.)

    Am I right? If so, then I’d say you were successful.

    That’s why I plan to start raising chickens this spring.

  13. This was our first year for chickens also. We also raised ours from a couple days old, so it was August before we started getting any eggs. While I don’t think it worth it strictly from a monetary standpoint this year, I still feel it was a worthwhile endeavor. My kids have learned a lot from the experience and I love the fact that we are eating food that we produced. I look forward to warmer weather and longer days, so our egg production increases again!

  14. Check around for local supplies of feed. We get ours from an Amish mill and is 1/2 the price of Tractor’s Supply. We sell our extra eggs to a guy who then turns around and sells them. This is nice because I only have to answer the door once. I hatch and sell baby chicks in the spring and pay for all my feed for the year. Also if the weather is cold or my chickens are molting I cut back on the layer feed and add more cracked corn. I also don’t keep any extra roosters around. I have 2 that I use for breeding stock and herd protectors (he keeps the ladies in order). People are usually happy to take them off my hands and if they are heavy breeds we make chicken soup out of them.
    If you are not careful chickens can cost more than they are worth.

  15. We’ve had good luck through the winter. We have five Buff Orpingtons and five Rhode Island Reds. Once they started laying regularly, by around September/October, we were getting 8-10 eggs per day! We’ve kept them eating a good laying mash from our local grain elevator, and supplemented that with a lot of extra produce from our gardens through November. When the daylight hours dropped, we added a light to come on in the mornings early to keep their daylight hours longer. We still kept averaging at least 7 or 8 a day, until we recently have had an extended cold snap (temps around 0), which eventually caught up with them and dropped us down to 2-4 eggs a day for a couple of weeks. Now the weather has been back up around freezing, so we’re picking back up to about 6 a day. We’ve definitely been pleased with our first year.

    Also, I enjoyed reading about your new stove! Hopefully, we’ll be able to get one in the coming months, too. It’ll be a fun new experience to learn to cook with one.

  16. I forget – did you pay for your chickens in the first place, or were they given to you. Just wondering if you should factor that cost in too..

    Just think though, next year will be much better!

  17. Ours stopped laying completely for about 2 months. But here lately we having been getting 3-6 a day. It definitely helps to free range. When mine are free ranging, I don’t fill up their feeders. I just give them a little on the ground and they have to forage for the rest!


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